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Unfiled Tax Returns: How Do I File Back Tax Returns?

Tax Consultation, Tax Negotiation and Settlement

You forgot to file your tax return last year.

Or the year before.

Perhaps it’s even been longer than that since the last time you filed a tax return: five years, ten years, or even more. You’d like to get your taxes caught up and everything straightened back out, but you’re not really sure how. How should you handle filing back tax returns? 

Step One: Get Past the Block

There are any number of reasons why you might have stopped filing your taxes. Perhaps you knew you owed money, and you didn’t have the funds to pay. Maybe a former spouse was responsible for filing your taxes, and after your divorce or their death, you had no idea how to file the taxes yourself. Maybe you just lost track of your tax documents, had no idea how to file your taxes, and chose not to file–and over time, that negligence compounded. Whatever led to your failure to file your taxes, however, it’s time to get past the block!

You need to file your taxes for a number of reasons. Not filing your taxes can be a felony. Not only that, it may be necessary to buy a home or take out a significant loan. Unfiled taxes could even prevent you from getting health insurance or filling out federal aid forms for your child to attend college. Delinquent taxpayers may even be added to the no-fly list, have their wages garnished, and face other serious problems that limit their lives. Whatever has stopped you from filing your taxes in the past, it’s time to get past it. If you don’t file your return within three years of the return’s due date, you will miss out on any refund you might receive from the IRS.

Step Two: Gather Your Records

Before you can file past tax returns, you’ll need to gather your records for those years. You can fill out Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return, to get your past tax records: W-2s and 1099s that indicate your income during those missing years. Find any information you can about your deductions for those years, as well. The more detailed your records from those years, the better the job you can do of itemizing your deductions. Make sure to consider:

Penalty relief waivers. Did the IRS make an error? Do you have a reasonable reason for why you were unable to file? If so, you may be able to fill out a penalty relief waiver, which could prevent penalties. 

Proof of health insurance. You may need to provide proof of health insurance for recent years in order to prevent tax penalties. Contact your insurance company if needed. 

Retirement savings and education expenses. Take a look at these statements to see what deductions you could qualify for on those missing years. In some cases, those deductions can significantly reduce your tax burden.

Information about your dependents during those years. What dependents were you responsible for each tax year? Pay particular attention to kids’ ages during the years your taxes went unpaid. 

Any self-employment income. Did you have additional income for the years you failed to file? If you had self-employment income over $600, you will need to include the income from those areas as well as information for your W-2’s. Make sure you have gathered all of your 1099 forms as well as your W-2 forms.

Investments and other income. If you had investments that provided income or savings accounts with substantial income, you may need proof of the income from those investments. 

Step Three: Look for Qualified Tax Experts

If you’re struggling with unpaid taxes and back tax returns, you may need help from a professional. Tax experts can help guide you through the process and ensure that you receive the support you need through the process–and keep you on the sunny side of the law. If you need a tax expert, whether due to unpaid past taxes or other serious tax concerns, contact Civic Tax Relief today to learn more about the options available to you and how we can help. While you can file your past tax returns through online programs, you may miss out on key deductions and other elements that can help you better understand exactly how much you owe. 

Tax experts can also ensure that you have access to key information, including the appropriate tax laws for each year you failed to file. Tax laws change every year, and filing with the wrong laws in place could mean that you just have to turn around and file all over again. Working with the right tax expert, on the other hand, can ensure that you get it right the first time, which means less of a headache for you in the long run. Go in prepared with the right questions, including:

Are you eligible for the IRS Fresh Start Program? The IRS Fresh Start program helps provide relief for individuals with past due tax debt. Under the terms of this program, the IRS will not file a Notice of Federal Tax Lien until a taxpayer has more than $10,000 in tax debt. The program also allows taxpayers who have higher debts, including up to $50,000 of debt, to make monthly payments for up to 6 years. You may also remove the lien if your debt is under $25,000 and you have set up direct debits from your account. 

What experience does your accountant have with past due taxes? When you look for an accountant or tax expert, make sure you know you know what experience they have with past due taxes. You want an accountant who can help you avoid any unnecessary fines, penalties, or fees associated with the process. 

Are you looking for a qualified tax expert to help handle your unpaid taxes? Contact Civic Tax Relief today to learn more about how we can help you get those unpaid taxes filed and your taxes on track to being paid.