How to Handle a Past-Due Tax Return

If you’re reading this, it means you’ve realized that you need to take care of a past-due tax return. Don’t worry – it’s not too late! The IRS has systems in place to help people file their taxes late. Here are the steps you need to take:

  1. Gather your paperwork.
  2. Download and complete the appropriate form.
  3. Send your completed form to the IRS.
  4. Pay any applicable taxes and fees.

The sooner you take care of your past-due return, the sooner you can move on from it. So don’t put it off any longer – get started today!

You may be eligible for an IRS Individual Opportunity to Compete if you did not file your income taxes on time in the previous year. Maybe you didn’t finish your 1040 on time the prior year, and you thought you wouldn’t be able to submit your taxes. Perhaps you forgot. The IRS understands that people tend to file late from time to time, and it has systems in place to account for this.

There are four basic steps that you need to take in order to file your taxes late: 1) gather your paperwork, 2) download and complete the appropriate form, 3) send your form to the IRS, and 4) pay any applicable taxes and fees. It is best to take care of this sooner rather than later, as the sooner you finish your past-due return, the sooner you can move on from it. It’s critical that you submit an annual return for a slew of excellent reasons. You risk incurring an IRS tax penalty if you do not file on time. Failure to file means that you might.

  • Accrue interest and penalties
  • Miss out on a refund (you can claim a refund for up to three years after the return due date).
  • Jeopardize your Social Security benefits. If you’re self-employed and don’t file, you will not be credited for income that year.
  • Have an issue if you can’t supply a tax return to a potential lender.

    File It ASAP

    Prepare and submit a past-due tax return as soon as you recognize one exists. You may get forms and instructions from previous years here.

    If you missed a filing deadline from a prior year, go to the IRS’ website for further information.

    If you can’t pay what you owe when you submit, you have the option of requesting an extension on your financial obligation. You may apply for an IRS Payment Plan if that isn’t enough time and/or if you’ll need to make payments over a lengthy period of time.

    What If You Don’t File?

    The short answer is this: The IRS may file a substitute return for you. If this happens, you may not get all of the deductions and credits that you should. So we advise you to still file a tax return that includes everything, even if the IRS already prepared a substitute return. The agency usually adjusts the return they created to reflect credits, deductions, and exemptions when they’re made aware of them.

    The IRS will notify you if the agency files a substitute return. You’ll receive a Notice of Deficiency (CP3219N), otherwise known as a 90-day letter, which gives you 90 days to either file your return or submit a petition to Tax Court.

    If you fail to do either of those things, the IRS will go ahead with its proposed assessment, which will, of course, trigger a tax bill. Failure to pay it will result in your account going into the collection process. This can include the filing of a federal tax lien or a levy on your bank account or wages. If you continue to ignore the bill, you may be subject to additional penalties and/or criminal prosecution.

    Potential Problems

    You may find as you’re preparing your return that you need additional information. For example, you might need information from a tax return filed in a prior year. If that happens, you can use the IRS’ Get Transcript service. Or maybe you’re missing wage and other income information from the year of the return you’re filing. You can always contact your employer or other source of income. Or you can complete an IRS Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return and check Box 8. The agency can provide data from Form W-2, Form 1099 and 1098 series, and Form 5498 series.

    The IRS offers a service that provides you with wage and income data from several types of forms.

    Where to Send Your Past-Due Return

    If you realized on your own that you didn’t file a return and wish to file it, you should send it the same way and to the same address that was originally indicated. If you received a notice, though, submit it to the address provided on it. The IRS says it takes roughly six weeks to process a completed past-due return.

    Any correspondence from the IRS can create a lot of anxiety, as can realizing you missed a tax deadline, perhaps by a lot. We encourage you to contact us if you’re at all concerned about a return you didn’t file. We can help you understand what your options are and how to proceed. We can also help with tax planning throughout the year, so you don’t have to deal with a past-due return again.

    If you’re having trouble gathering your paperwork, or if you need more information about how to file a past-due tax return, the IRS has a few resources that might help. You can find them on the IRS website at

    DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. You should not act or refrain from acting based on any information contained herein without seeking the advice of an attorney.