What Happens If I Forgot to File My Taxes?

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It may seem implausible that someone forgot to file their taxes, but it happens. About 7 million people fail to file their tax return each year.

Something big happens in your life, your tax return slips your mind, and suddenly it’s a year later when you remember you never filed. If you forgot to file your taxes, here’s what will happen and what you should do.

What If I Forgot to File and the IRS Owes Me a Refund?

If you’re owed a refund, you’re in luck. Your taxes were completely paid through withholding or estimated tax payments. This means you won’t owe interest or penalties.

To get your refund, you’ll need to file your return just as you would have if you filed on time. You have up to three years from the original due date of your return, or you’ll forfeit your refund.

What If I Forgot to File and I Owe the IRS?

If you owe the IRS money, you have a problem. First, there are failing to file and failing to pay penalties that could be as high as 25% of the taxes you owed depending on how late you filed. Second, interest will accrue on your balance until it’s paid. Third, you may find yourself having to convince the IRS that you weren’t trying to evade taxes.

You should also know that there is no statute of limitations for failing to file a tax return. If you just realized you didn’t file a couple of years ago, you can’t run out the clock in hope of not having to pay the taxes you owe.

The only way to stop interest and penalties from accruing is to file a return and pay your balance as soon as possible.

Can I Just Wait Until I Get A Notice From the IRS?

Waiting until you receive a notice from the IRS is the worst thing you can do. Interest and penalties will accrue until you pay your tax liability in full. If the IRS believes you knew you had additional income but didn’t report it, you may be subject to additional civil penalties or even criminal tax evasion charges.

Further, the chances of the IRS finding out you didn’t file are almost 100%. If you got just one W-2, 1099, or other information return, the IRS computers will flag your account when they can’t find your return.

In short, you need to file your return as soon as possible.

Talk to a tax professional now if you need help solving your tax problems.

Need personal help? Click here for additional free resources or to find an accountant, attorney, or other professional near youRemember: This blog post and the comments provide generalized information that may be out of date or inaccurate for your situation. Always schedule a personal consultation with an appropriate licensed professional in your area before taking action. For full terms of use, click here.

Have general questions about this post or want to learn more about a related topic? Please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. Comments are public, and I can’t provide individual advice, but it helps me make the posts more useful for the future. Please do not post personal information. If you need personal assistance, please contact the relevant government agency or hire an appropriate professional near you.

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