- How to File a Tax Return for a Previous Year With the IRS
- Can an Unemployed Person File a Federal Tax Return?
- Can You File Married Jointly if Your Wife Does Not Work?
- Do You File Jointly if Your Spouse Did Not Have Reportable Income?
- Can I Collect a State Tax Refund From Three Years Ago?
- IRS Penalties if a Tax Return Is Incorrect
Although you may not be required to file tax returns each year because you didn’t have enough taxable income, the IRS may question if you have an erratic tax-filing history. Large income fluctuations also raise a red flag with the IRS. As a precautionary measure against potential tax evasion, the IRS might hold your tax refund. If you follow IRS procedure, however, you will get your funds released -- especially if you can demonstrate that you have no outstanding liability.
The IRS sends notices if you’re owed a refund but haven’t filed a return for previous years; these notices are called CP88 notices. The notice specifies the missing tax years and includes a response form that you should complete. You must check to ensure that your name, Social Security number and tax years are correct.
You’ll need to explain why you didn’t file a return in previous years. Ideally you'll be able to demonstrate that you weren't required to file a tax return. If, however, you were required to file a return, you must file your return and pay any taxes, if any, that are owed from the prior tax years. The IRS will use the refund it’s holding to satisfy any outstanding debts and will release any part of the refund that exceeds the amount owed.
If you were required to file returns in previous years, the IRS will hold your current tax refund until all of your obligations from prior years are met. You must file returns for all years that you’re required to file and pay the outstanding taxes, if any, which will be increased by interest and penalties for late payment. If you weren’t required to file a return, you must explain why you weren’t required to file to the IRS and your refund will be released. You may pay any prior obligations out of pocket or you can apply your current refund to satisfy your prior obligations.
Interest and Penalties
Failing to file your tax returns on time when you owe the IRS results in a significantly higher tax bill. If you pay your taxes after the date they’re due, you’ll face late-payment penalties plus interest on the amount owed until the taxes are paid in full. Failing to file within 60 days of the due date increases the late-filing penalty to at least $135 or up to the full amount of the taxes owed.
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