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Home / What Happens if You Don’t File Taxes?

What Happens if You Don’t File Taxes?

This represents what happens if you don't file taxes.

Most people would rather avoid thinking about what would happen if they don’t file taxes, but it’s still a good question. You may have asked the same thing out of frustration while struggling to fill out returns. If not, you may have wondered about it since filing a tax return is common every April. Unsurprisingly, not filing taxes can get you into a lot of trouble.

You’ll get a corresponding penalty for failing to meet your tax obligations. This typically means the tax will increase if you haven’t paid them off. If you delay your payments longer, the government may take some of your property to cover your unpaid amount. Worse, you may face time in the slammer!

Let’s discuss what would happen if you didn’t file taxes. After that, I will go through the steps to file taxes in print or e-file. You will also see the different ways of paying taxes later, making it easier to pay on time. Later, you’ll see how easy it is to file nowadays, so most people aren’t likely to fail to do so on time.

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Can You File Your Taxes Late?

You can file your taxes late, but it’s crucial to know the potential consequences and take the necessary steps to address them. Life can throw unexpected challenges our way, causing delays in meeting tax deadlines. Filing late can result in penalties and interest, Whether due to unforeseen circumstances, a busy schedule, or simply procrastination.

Understanding the Penalties

Filing your taxes after the deadline usually incurs a penalty, a percentage of the unpaid taxes you owe. This penalty can accumulate monthly, so filing as soon as possible is important to avoid any further financial consequences. The sooner you address your late filing, the better your chance of minimizing the overall impact on your wallet.

Requesting a Filing Extension

If you cannot meet the tax deadline, consider filing for an extension. This provides additional time to gather necessary documents and ensures you won’t face penalties for late filing. However, remember that an extension only applies to the filing deadline, not the payment deadline. Any taxes owed are generally expected to be paid by the original deadline to avoid interest and penalties.

Penalties for Late Payment

While an extension provides breathing room for filing, it doesn’t excuse late payment. You may incur separate penalties for late fees if you owe taxes and miss the deadline. It’s essential to talk with the tax authorities, as they may be willing to work with you to set up a payment plan or explore other options to satisfy your tax obligations.

Communicating with Tax Authorities

If you anticipate filing late or facing challenges with tax payments, open communication with the tax authorities is key. Explaining your situation and demonstrating a willingness to fulfill your tax obligations can sometimes lead to more lenient treatment. Proactive communication showcases responsibility and may result in a more favorable resolution.

Taking Corrective Action

Once you’ve acknowledged the delay, taking prompt corrective action is crucial. Gather all required documents, accurately complete your tax return, and submit it as soon as possible. Address any outstanding tax payments promptly to minimize the accrual of penalties and interest.

Learning from the Experience

Use the experience of filing taxes late as an opportunity for growth. Evaluate what led to the delay and implement strategies to ensure timely filing in the future. Learning from past mistakes can prevent recurring issues, whether it involves better organization, setting reminders, or seeking professional assistance.

Read More: How Much Should You Save in a Month?

Initial Penalties for Not Filing Taxes on Time

This represents what happens if you don't file taxes.

In the United States, returns are handled by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). If you fail to file tax returns, it will remind you via a notice or letter explaining the issue and its corresponding penalty.

This often involves an extra amount added to your current balance. The IRS computes a taxpayer’s penalties when he fails to file taxes or delays paying the stated amount.

We’ll only discuss the former because it’s related to our topic. Here’s how it works, according to the official IRS website:

  • As I said, you’ll receive a letter that shows how much you owe and your payment deadline. That due date is usually 21 calendar days after the IRS sends the notice. They cut that period to 10 calendar days if you owe $100,000 or more.
  • Failure to pay by that due date will result in a Failure to Pay Penalty. This is 0.5% of the monthly taxes you didn’t pay on time. Alternatively, this would be 0.5% of the partial month you didn’t pay after the deadline.
  • You might have failed to file tax returns, but the IRS approved your payment plan. Your Failure to Pay Penalty is halved to 0.25% in that case.
  • If you still don’t pay your tax in 10 days after receiving the IRS notice, the Failure to Pay Penalty goes up to 1%.
  • The IRS applies full monthly charges even if you submit the full amount before the month ends.
  • The IRS also charges interest on penalties. Also, note that the Failure to Pay Penalty can increase as much as 25% depending on certain factors.

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Major Penalties if You Don’t File Taxes

This is a person who's filing taxes.

If you owe a decade’s worth of taxes, the IRS will still charge you for those. Even if you don’t file tax returns, the IRS will ensure you do so. It may file a Substitution for Return (SFR) for you.

This isn’t an easier way to file your returns, though. The IRS may omit deductions or exemptions that could have reduced your balance. It will also send a letter along with the SFR.

It’s a notice that will remind you to pay this alternative return. If you don’t respond, the IRS will issue a notice of deficiency. Once this happens, that tax is your responsibility, and the IRS will start collecting.

The IRS may place a lien against your property to ensure you’ll pay. This allows the IRS to sell your stuff to cover unpaid taxes, interest, and penalties.

Contrary to popular belief, your taxes aren’t considered credit card debts or other deferred payments. This means it will not damage your credit score.

If you persist in not filing your federal tax returns, the IRS may consider it a deliberate attempt to avoid paying taxes. That’s when Internal Revenue Code Section 7201 may take effect.

Under this law, you may receive up to five years in prison. Also, you will have to pay $250,000 in fines. These should be enough reasons for taxpayers to file taxes on time!

Read More: How Do Tax Write-Offs Work?

What to Do if You Fail to File Taxes

This is a person who's filing taxes.

The IRS is willing to work with taxpayers should they feel that they do not deserve a penalty. You may call the IRS toll-free numbers that are listed on this webpage.

On the other hand, you may send a letter to the Internal Revenue Service explaining your tax situation. You must mention the following information in your call or letter:

  • The notice or letter you got from the IRS
  • The penalty that you want the agency to reconsider
  • An explanation as to why the IRS must remove that penalty

If you need more time to file your return, you may request it via electronic filing. Pay your tax liability on the form and choose the options for automatic tax-filing extension.

Note that you will still owe taxes you must pay on the same date. You may also get an extension for filing by paying via Direct Pay, the EFTPS, a credit card, or a debit card.

Remember the payment plan we discussed earlier? That could give you more time to pay taxes. It provides an installment agreement that lets you pay your balance over time.

Still, you will have to meet certain criteria. You may click here to apply for a qualified payment plan. It’s much better to avoid penalties by filing taxes on time!

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How to File Taxes

This is an IRS tax form.

Before you can file tax returns, you must know the ones you must file. Here are the important IRS tax dates for 2024:

  • 16th of January – Fourth quarter 2023 tax payments
  • 23rd of January – Beginning of tax returns
  • 31st of January – Mail W-2 forms for employers
  • 15th of April – Federal Returns or Tax Day and final day for 401k contributions and extensions
  • 15th of October – Deadline for late filing

The most common requirement is the federal tax return, so we will discuss how to file those. Fortunately, the IRS provides a handy guide for this procedure:

  1. Prepare the paperwork, such as the W-2 and your 1099 and 1099-INT forms. If you’re itemizing your return, include the donations and business expenses receipts.
  2. Pick your filing status based on whether you’re married. This will also affect how much you pay for other taxes, such as capital gains.
  3. Choose how you want to file your taxes. The IRS says it’s much better to use tax preparation software because it’s more convenient and accurate.
  4. Decide if you’ll get a standard deduction or itemized returns.

When choosing your tax program, read its terms and conditions. It’s easy to fall for buzzwords like “maximum refund guarantee” or “100% accurate.”

Some may have a free edition, but it often lacks features. It typically asks users to create an account and pay for access. For best results, you might want to get a tax professional instead.

If you have any questions or concerns about your specific situation, it’s advisable to consult with a tax professional for personalized guidance.

As you navigate your tax responsibilities, consider this a friendly reminder to stay on top of your financial game. Your future self will thank you.

Feel free to reach out if you need further insights or assistance. Happy filing!

What Happens If I File My Taxes Late?

Filing your taxes late can have several consequences, and it’s important to be aware of the potential impact on your financial situation. Here are key repercussions:

Failure-To-File Penalty

Filing your taxes late comes with its share of financial repercussions, and one of the primary consequences is the failure-to-file penalty. This penalty is calculated based on the unpaid taxes you owe and is typically a percentage that increases for each month your return is overdue. The longer you delay, the more this penalty can accumulate, putting an additional strain on your financial resources.

Mitigating the Failure-To-File Penalty

To minimize the impact of the failure-to-file penalty, it’s crucial to submit your tax return as soon as possible, even if you can’t pay the full amount owed. Filing on time or as close to the deadline as possible can significantly reduce the financial burden of this penalty.

Consideration for Filing Extensions

If circumstances prevent you from meeting the tax deadline, consider filing for an extension. While this provides additional time for filing, it’s essential to note that an extension only applies to the filing deadline, not the payment deadline. Penalties for late payment may still apply if you don’t settle your tax liability by the original due date.

Failure-To-Pay Penalty

In addition to the failure-to-file penalty, there’s the failure-to-pay penalty for those who owe taxes and don’t submit payment by the deadline. This penalty is assessed as a percentage of the unpaid taxes and accrues monthly. It’s a separate charge from the failure-to-file harm, emphasizing the importance of addressing your tax obligations’ filing and payment aspects.

Substitute Tax Return

If you neglect to file your tax return, the IRS may take matters into its own hands by creating a substitute tax return on your behalf. This substitute return is often less favorable to the taxpayer, as it doesn’t take advantage of potential deductions and credits that could lower your tax liability. Consequently, this can result in a higher tax bill than if you had filed the return.

Filing Corrective Returns

If the IRS files a substitute return, submitting your accurate return as soon as possible is still in your best interest. Corrective returns can help rectify discrepancies and potentially lower the overall tax amount you owe.

Learning from the Experience

The substitute tax return experience serves as a reminder of the importance of proactive tax filing. Taking control of your tax responsibilities by filing accurately and on time can prevent the need for the IRS to intervene with a substitute return.

Consulting with a tax professional is advisable if you have specific concerns or need personalized guidance. Feel free to reach out if you have further questions or require additional insights. And as always, happy filing!

What If I Can’t Afford To Pay Taxes?

Facing a situation where you can’t afford to pay your taxes can be stressful, but there are options and steps you can take to address the issue. Here’s a guide on what to do if you find yourself in this predicament:

Communication with Tax Authorities

If you know you won’t be able to pay your taxes on time, it’s essential to communicate with the tax authorities. Ignoring the issue can lead to additional penalties and interest. Many tax agencies are willing to work with individuals facing financial challenges.

Setting Up a Payment Plan

Sometimes, tax authorities may allow you to set up a payment plan. This enables you to pay your tax debt in installments over an extended period. Be prepared to provide financial information demonstrating your inability to pay the full amount upfront.

Feel free to reach out if you have further questions or require additional insights. And as always, take steps to prioritize your financial well-being.

How Long Can You Go Without Filing Taxes?

While there isn’t a specific time frame after which you are barred from filing your taxes, it’s important to understand the potential consequences and recommended timelines for filing. Here are some key points to consider:

No Statute of Limitations for Unfiled Returns

Unlike many other legal matters, unfiled tax returns have no statute of limitations. This means there is no specific time limit after which you are prohibited from filing. However, there are significant financial consequences for filing late.

Penalties and Interest

Failing to file your taxes on time can result in penalties and interest. The failure-to-file punishment is typically more severe than the failure-to-pay penalty. The sentences are calculated based on the unpaid taxes you owe and can accrue monthly.

Accumulation of Penalties

The longer you delay filing, the more penalties accumulate, potentially creating a substantial financial burden. It’s best to file your taxes as soon as possible to minimize these penalties.

Loss of Refund Eligibility

If you are entitled to a tax refund, there is generally a three-year window from the original due date to claim it. If you don’t file within this timeframe, you forfeit your right to that refund.

Opportunity to Claim Refunds

Conversely, if you owe taxes and fail to file, you may miss out on opportunities to claim certain tax credits or deductions that could reduce your overall tax liability.

Substitute Tax Returns by Tax Authorities

If you don’t file your taxes, the tax authorities (such as the IRS in the United States) may file a substitute return on your behalf. However, this substitute return does not take advantage of potential deductions and credits, often resulting in a higher tax bill.

Filing Corrective Returns

Even if a substitute return is filed, submitting your accurate return as soon as possible is still in your best interest. Corrective returns can help rectify discrepancies and potentially lower the overall tax amount you owe.

Legal Consequences

While there is no specific time limit for filing, avoiding your tax obligations can lead to legal consequences. Tax authorities may take enforcement actions, including liens on your property or wage garnishments.

Final Thoughts

We discussed what may happen if you don’t file taxes on time. This is a part of life for most people around the world. You might be surprised to know that even the Amish pay taxes!

It’s much better to submit payments on time rather than face penalties. You could request an extension if you’re having trouble filing tax returns.

You may even get tax credits for certain actions. For example, you could get tax incentives if you buy an electric vehicle. You may receive Child Tax Credits for every one of your children.

Published on February 10, 2022; Updated on February 16, 2024.

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