How to File Past Year Tax Returns

The IRS provides past year tax return forms on its website.

tax forms image by Chad McDermott from

When you don't file a tax return, the Internal Revenue Service does it for you. You may wonder if that's a bad thing, as you don't have to do all the work. The IRS files the tax return with only the information it has on hand, so you miss out on valuable credits and tax deductions by not doing it yourself. You may even end up owing a balance on your taxes, and the IRS will begin collection proceedings on it. If you failed to file your taxes for a year, it's not too late to file. The IRS amends any returns it substituted with your new tax return document.

Step 1

Contact the IRS to get the proper forms for filing past year tax returns. The agency provides forms on its website as a portable document format download. You may also call 1-800-TAX-FORM to order forms for your taxes. As of 2012, the IRS does not accept e-filed tax returns for past years. You must mail in your tax return forms.

Step 2

Assemble all your tax documents for the year you are filing, including W-2 forms, 1099 forms, alimony records and self-employment income.

Step 3

Complete the tax return by noting all your income, tax deductions, credits and exemptions. Double-check your information for accuracy.

Step 4

Sign and date your past year tax return. Failing to sign your tax return delays processing of the return. Provide a phone number where the IRS can contact you about errors or missing information.

Step 5

Mail your tax return to the address provided on your tax form. Only certain service centers process past year tax returns. Mailing your tax documents to the wrong address delays processing of your tax return.