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Filing Taxes Late FAQ

Every year around tax day, taxpayers have questions about how to file, when to file, and what happens if you file your taxes late. The following are some of the commonly asked questions about filing taxes late.

For more tax information from FindLaw, see Filing Your Federal Taxes: In-Depth and Need More Time? File an Extension to learn more.

Is There Any Benefit To Filing Early?

You do not get anything extra for filing early. However, there are benefits to filing before the deadline. If you file ahead of time, you get your taxes out of the way and allow extra time for any errors or delays. The most important thing is to make sure not to file your taxes late. For most individual taxpayers, the tax deadline is April 15, or the following business day if it falls on a weekend.

When Is My Tax Return Considered Late?

Your tax return is due on the tax filing date. For most years, the filing date is April 15. If you filed an extension, you have an additional 6 months to file your taxes, generally until October 15. Any return that is postmarked or electronically filed a day or more past the due date is subject to interest.

Do I Have To File Taxes?

Most income earners in the U.S. have to file taxes. The minimum amount of gross income for filing taxes depends on your filing status and age. For anyone under age 65 and filing single, you have to file taxes if your income is over $12,400. Older individuals (age 65 and older) have a higher limit.

There are advantages to filing your taxes, even if you don't think the IRS will come after you. If you are eligible for a refund for taxes withheld from your paycheck, you generally have 3 years from the tax due date to claim a refund.

If you are self-employed, you need to file a tax return to receive credits towards your Social Security retirement and disability benefits.

What If I Don't Have Enough To Pay My Taxes?

Some people don't want to file because they don't have enough to pay their taxes. There are separate penalties for failing to file and failing to pay. If you don't have enough to pay the full tax amount, you should still file and pay what you can. You can contact the IRS for payment options to help you avoid additional interest and late-payment penalties.

Options for taxpayers include a short-term extension, usually up to 180 days, or installment plans. It is important to stay in good standing with the IRS to reduce the late payment penalties and get the IRS to approve a request for a penalty waiver.

How Much Are the Late Filing Penalties?

The penalty for filing late is 5% of the unpaid taxes for each month or part of the month that the return is late. The maximum late filing penalty is 25% of the unpaid taxes. The penalty for failing to pay is 1/2% for each month after the tax-filing due date. There is also a minimum late-filing penalty if your return is filed more than 60 days after the due date.

What Happens if I Don't File?

If you don't file your taxes, the IRS may do it for you. The IRS can file a "substitute for return," which is based on your reported income. The substitute return does not take into account the deductions and benefits which could reduce your tax liability. Based on the substitute return, the IRS can assess a tax bill, and continue to add interest, late-payment penalties, and failure-to-file penalties. If the bill still isn't paid, the tax bill can go to collections, with a tax lien on your property.

How Can I Get a Refund Next Year?

Many people expect to get a refund when filing their taxes only to find out they owe money. To help avoid this next year, you should review your current withholdings to make sure they reflect your current tax situation. Tax laws change regularly, so it is important to be aware of any coming tax changes and make any necessary changes to avoid a surprising tax bill.

Can You Go To Jail for Not Filing Taxes?

Most taxpayers will not go to jail or face criminal charges for failing to file their taxes or getting behind on their bills. The IRS generally takes civil action before they refer the case for criminal prosecution. If you file your taxes or make arrangements to pay your tax bill, you can usually avoid any criminal investigation.

However, tax fraud and tax evasion are criminal offenses. Committing tax fraud or willfully trying to evade paying taxes can result in criminal charges. Penalties for a tax crime conviction can include up to 5 years in prison and fines.

Get Legal Help for Late Filing Questions

If your taxes are past due, it is important to take care of them as quickly as possible. There are late-filing fees and late-payment fees, in addition to interest. If the taxes remain unpaid, you could be facing a federal tax lien and wage garnishment. If you have questions about federal income taxes, get answers from an experienced tax law attorney today.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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Next Steps

Contact a qualified tax attorney to help you navigate your federal and/or state tax issues.

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