What do I do if I did not file taxes last year?

Modified on Tue, 31 Jan 2023 at 08:31 PM

If for any reason you didn't file taxes last year, the IRS says you're still responsible for paying what is owed. Therefore, you should determine if you're required to file a return and then take the appropriate action.

Did I Need to File a Return?

Not everyone is required to file a federal return. Generally speaking, this will depend on:

  • Your tax filing status
  • Your gross income
  • Your age

In most circumstances, as long as your income is less than your standard deduction, you shouldn't need to file. To find out if you're required to file a return or not, use the Interactive Tax Assistant, a free online tool from the IRS that asks you a series of questions and then determines if filing is necessary.

If You Do Need to File a Return

After you verify that you meet the minimum criteria for filing a tax return, you should do so immediately even though it’s late. The Failure to File Penalty is 5% of the unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month that a tax return is late (up to a maximum of 25%).

If you're expecting a refund, then the Failure to File Penalty won’t apply because you don’t owe anything. However, the IRS cannot proceed with a refund until your tax return has been received and processed.

If you're expecting that you owe the IRS, then you should pay as much as you can. Taking this step will not only help reduce the Failure to File Penalty, but more importantly, it will help avoid a second charge, the Failure to Pay Penalty. 

Either way, failure to file your own tax return will lead to the IRS filing one for you. This could result in a tax bill which if unpaid will trigger the collections process and the unwanted consequences of levying your wages or bank accounts.

For more information about filing past returns, please see the IRS article Filing Past Due Tax Returns.

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