If you miss your tax filing deadline or don’t pay your tax debt in full, you could be in serious trouble. The IRS recommends filing overdue tax returns as soon as possible to limit interest charges and late payment penalties. Here is an overview of the process for filing back tax returns.
Should I File Past Due Tax Returns if I can’t pay?
You must file all of your past-due tax returns, regardless of whether or not you can pay the full amount you owe. Filing your back tax returns can help you avoid interest and penalties, claim a refund, protect your Social Security benefits, and avoid troubles obtaining loans.
According to the IRS, you must file your past-due returns the same way and to the same address where you would file an on-time return. If you received a notice, be sure to mail your back tax return to the address specified on the notice you received.
If you can’t pay your tax debt in full, you can request an additional 60-120 days to pay what you owe. You can do it through the Online Payment Agreement application or by calling 800-829-1040.
And if you need more time to pay, you can request an installment agreement or apply for an Offer in Compromise if you meet the eligible criteria.
How to File Back Tax Returns
Filing a back tax return is not that different from filing an on-time tax return, but it does require a few extra steps:
Step 1: Gather information
The first thing you need to do is gather any information for the year you want to file a federal tax return for. Make sure you have all the W-2s and 1099s you received during that year, as well as the necessary receipts to claim any deductions or credits you may qualify for.
If you don’t have all of these documents, you can request tax documents from the IRS. Form 4506-T allows you to request a transcript of your tax return information for the last 10 tax years. You can choose to receive your transcript electronically or by mail.
Step 2: Complete and file your back tax return
Once you have all the forms you need, make sure they match the tax forms for the year you’re filing. For example, if you are filing a 2019 tax return, you must use the 2019 tax return forms. You can find all tax forms from previous years on the IRS website.
If you need help completing your back tax return, you can use tax preparation software or hire a tax professional. You may also qualify for free tax preparation software.
To prepare your tax returns, input your tax information from wage and income forms or transcripts.
If you are experiencing difficulties preparing your return, you may qualify for assistance through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) or Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs.
Step 3: Mail your tax return
Once you’ve prepared your back tax return, send it along with payment to the mailing address on your Form 1040, or on the IRS notice if you received it.
The IRS may take approximately 6 weeks to process your past-due tax return.