Owe the IRS a prior year return?

February 17, 2009 4:17:31 PM PST
Don't delay; file your prior year return now! The failure to file a federal tax return can be costly -- whether you end up owing more or missing out on a refund. * More Tax Help

If you owe taxes, a delay in filing may result in a failure-to-file penalty and interest charges. The longer you delay, the larger these charges grow.

If you are due a refund and don't file you could lose your refund. There is no penalty for failure to file if you are due a refund. However, you cannot obtain a refund without filing a tax return. If you wait too long to file, you may risk losing the refund altogether. The deadline for claiming refunds is generally three years after the return due date.

There are several reasons taxpayers don't file their taxes. Perhaps you didn't know you were required to file. Maybe, you just keep putting it off or simply forgot. Whatever the reason, it's best to file your return as soon as possible. If you need help, even with a late return, the IRS is ready to assist you.

Here are some steps for filing your prior year return:

  1. Gather prior year tax return information. You will need Social Security numbers, income information and records for expenses, deductions and credits.
  2. Determine if you have a filing requirement. Whether or not you must file a tax return will depend upon a number of factors, including your filing status, age, and gross income. Individuals who are entitled to the Earned Income Tax Credit must file their return to claim the credit even if they are not otherwise required to file.
  3. Get forms and publications. Make sure you get the forms and publications for the year of the tax return you are filing.
  4. Prepare your tax return. Complete, sign and date your tax return. Be sure to attach any required schedules and forms.
  5. Mail the completed and signed prior year return to the correct address. Mailing a return to an incorrect address can delay the processing of the return.

If your income was $42,000 or less, your local Taxpayer Assistance Center may be able to assist you in preparing your prior year return. You can locate your nearest center at http://www/irs.gov/localcontacts/index.html. For more information on how to file a tax return for a prior year, visit the IRS Web site at IRS.gov or call the IRS Tax Help Line for Individuals at 800-829-1040.

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