How To File Past Taxes
Even the most well-intentioned sometimes need to know how to file past taxes. Be it economic difficulty, emotional distress, forgetfulness, or even laziness, sometimes people do not file their federal taxes on time. When the delay of filing stretches out significantly, it will be necessary to file past taxes from previous years. Filing tax returns, even if they are late, and paying the correct amount of taxes is good citizenship.
- Understand the importance of filing past taxes. Filing late can be extremely costly in terms of a foregone refund or interest and penalties. Additionally, criminal charges can be brought against taxpayers who do not file their taxes. Filing a tax return, even if late, can be your best option to avoid having criminal actions taken against you.
- Determine if you have past taxes to file. If you are unsure if you must file past taxes, look at the tax form (IRS Form 1040) from the year in question. The tax form provides the requirements to file for that year given filing status and income level. Alternatively, you can call the IRS at (800) 829-1040 to inquire if you must file taxes for any previous year.
- Obtain the tax form for the year in question. To file past taxes, you must use the tax form from the year you failed to file. These forms can be downloaded from the IRS website or obtained by calling the IRS at the number above. Many local libraries will also keep copies of previous year’s tax forms for distribution. Finally, if you decide to file electronically, most online tax preparation software programs such as TurboTax provide previous year’s tax forms you can fill out as well.
- Gather income documentation and all related documents to that filing year. To get a previous year’s W-2, you can contact your employer for that year. If they no longer have the information, a W-2 from that year can be obtained from the IRS. Call your bank/credit union/mortgage lender etc. to gather additional documents from the filing year in question.
- Prepare Your Past Tax Returns. You can prepare these yourself (on paper or through tax preparation software) or by contacting a tax professional. Do not be embarrassed that you are filing past due taxes, be proud that you are finally fulfilling your civic obligation. Directions on where to send the tax return is included on all tax forms.
- Pay any taxes, interest and fees owed. For help calculating interest and penalties, contact the IRS. They will determine the exact amount of interest and penalties that have accrued, and what must be paid to clear your name.
It is a drag to file past taxes, but, as Americans, it is our civic duty. Complete the steps above, and contact the IRS if necessary, to learn how to pay past taxes.