What do I do if I have not filed my federal tax returns for several years?

If you have not filed your federal income tax return for one or more years, what should you do?  The answer is a simple one: file all of your past due returns.  Whatever your reason for not filing your prior returns, it is wise to file all delinquent returns as soon as you can for several reasons:

  • It is the right thing to do. If you are a citizen or resident of the United States, it is your duty to pay your fair share of taxes to help support our nation.  Filing a federal income tax return is how you pay this money.
  • It minimizes the taxes due. When you do not file a federal income tax return, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) often files a substitute return on your behalf.  When filing a substitute return, the IRS may complete the return in a manner that increases your tax liability.  For example, even though you may qualify to file with a status of Married Filing Jointly, the IRS may have filed the substitute return as an Individual return.  Or if you have exemptions or other deductions you can take on your return, the IRS may be unaware of these exemptions and deductions and have filed a substitute return that does not account for them.  Filing a return will make the tax amount that you do owe the actual amount that you should owe.
  • It minimizes the penalty. When filing delinquent returns, you may be subject to a penalty and interest charges.  The sooner you bring your tax return filings current, the sooner you will have peace of mind in knowing that you are minimizing the penalties and fines and are taking the steps necessary to put the situation behind you.
  • You may be due a refund. If you have not even calculated your federal income taxes for a given year, you may be surprised to find that you are due a refund.  If you do not file the return, you cannot collect the refund.

You may be wondering if you will go to jail because you have not filed your returns.  Except in extremely rare instances, the answer is no as long as you voluntarily file you federal tax return.  But the IRS does consider delinquent tax returns a serious matter, and they may file a lawsuit to obtain a judgment for delinquent taxes due.  This can result in garnishment of your wages or a lien being placed on your home.

If you have not filed one or more past federal tax returns, should you hire a tax attorney?
At a minimum, you should have a tax attorney review your situation to get advice more specific to your circumstances.  A tax attorney understands federal tax laws and can answer your questions about past due federal tax returns and advise you of your rights.

Complete the short evaluation form below and a tax lawyer will review your situation free of charge.  The review is 100% confidential and there is no obligation.  If you owe delinquent tax, with the help of a tax attorney, it is not unusual to negotiate a settlement plan in which you pay less than the full amount owed.  So please seek help today.

by Mark Johnston

Mark has been a contributor to legal web sites related to bankruptcy, tax, and criminal law since 2011. He has an Accounting degree from Texas A&M University.