Obviously, submitting an extension is the best case scenario when it comes to filing federal income tax late, but if the April tax deadline took you by surprise, or you haven’t filed a return from several years ago, then you will just have to incur penalties and go about late tax filing.
Generally, you are responsible for filing late tax returns for the past year as well as the previous six if any of those are un-filed as well, though the IRS could always ask for even older returns. You file a late tax return just as you would a normal tax return. The only major difference is that the deadline for filing online is six months after the original due date, when everyone who applied for an extension is required to file. If your tax return is later than this you’ll have to file the old-fashioned way, with a physical paper copy of your return.
The first step to filing late income taxes is to gather your old documents. This could be difficult, as they may have gotten lost or thrown out over the years. The two most important documents you will need are your old W-2 and 1099 forms. If you don’t have them, you could try contacting your old employers, and if that doesn’t work, you could always contact the IRS. They won’t give you a copy of these forms, but you can get a printout with all the information on it. A final option is filling out Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2, on which you can recreate your salary records.
Another caveat as you prepare a late filing of federal taxes: make sure to use the tax form from the year you are filing. The IRS changes their forms every year, so you can’t use a current form for filing an old year’s return or vice versa.
Another helpful tip of late tax filing assistance is considering making a request for abatement. If the penalties surrounding your back taxes have become so onerous that you are unable to pay them, or exceptional circumstances have rendered you unable to pay, you can submit a request to the IRS to eliminate part or all of your penalties and interest, but not the initial tax base that created it. In general, in order to receive an abatement, the IRS requires you to demonstrate that factors beyond your control render you not responsible for the penalties. Family disruptions such as divorce or death, natural disasters such as hurricanes or earthquakes, and a large stretch of unemployment are just a few examples of reasons you can request an abatement. Most of the time an abatement will eliminate part of all of the penalties but not the interest due on the unpaid taxes. Even if only the penalties are waived this is still quite a victory, as they usually account for somewhere in the vicinity of 25% of an individual’s tax debt.
One thing to note, however, is that if you apply for an abatement and it is accepted, you will be asked to pay the rest of what you owe in full. If you are not able to pay this amount in full, requesting an abatement may not be the best course of action. In order to request an abatement you can send a written petition to the IRS or fill out Form 843, Claim for Refund and Request for Abatement. We at LateTax.com can also help you prepare the form and advise you on this matter by calling us at 1-855-TAX-LATE.
Hopefully you realize that filing federal income tax late is not as difficult or as it may seem. Though the best thing to do is ask for an extension, you can still file even if you didn’t do so. A late tax filing could get you a refund or at the very least save you money in the penalties that are building up every day.