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Last Updated: January 6, 2022

Consequences Of Not Filing

Not filing your return on time can have negative consequences, ranging from delaying your refund to civil and criminal penalties. If you owe taxes and fail to pay them, you could face penalties for failure to pay.

Every year, the IRS and the media put out lots of information and reminders about the due date for filing your federal tax return. The most common tax forms and due dates are as follows, but due dates vary if they fall on a weekend or holiday.

What do I need to know?

You may refer to the tax form’s instructions for the due date:

  • Form 1040 series for individuals – April 15
  • Form 1120 series for corporations – March 15
  • Form 1065 series for partnerships – March 15 for years beginning after December 31, 2015.
    • Prior year partnership returns, April 15.

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What should I do?

File your tax return and do it on time. If you can’t file by the due date, you should request an extension of time to file. If you don’t, the IRS may assess a penalty on your account for filing your tax return late.

If you owe taxes
Even if you have an extension to file your tax return, any taxes you owe are still due on the tax return due date. The IRS will charge you interest and a late paying penalty. These charges are based on the amount you owe and the length of time it takes to pay it. The sooner you pay the tax, the better it is for you. If you can’t pay all at once, you have options for making payments over time.

If you end up with a penalty
If you filed your tax return or paid your taxes late, the IRS may have assessed one or more penalties on your account. In some cases, the IRS will waive the penalties for filing and paying late. However, you’ll need to ask the IRS to do this. The IRS will usually consider the following:

Reasonable Cause – You have a reason for not filing or paying on time, including:

  • You exercised ordinary business care and prudence to determine your taxes;
  • You had matters beyond your control that left you unable to file or to determine the amount of deposit or tax due;
  • You didn’t receive necessary financial information;
  • You didn’t know you needed to file a tax return even though you made efforts to find out;
  • You had a death in your immediate family;
  • You or a member of your immediate family suffered a serious illness that kept you from handling your financial matters; or
  • You lost your tax documents in a fire or some other disaster.

This list doesn’t include all possible reasons. Be prepared to explain to the IRS what issues you faced and why they caused you to file your tax return or pay your taxes late. You should also be prepared to show the IRS you’ve corrected the situation, and you won’t have problems filing and paying on time in the future.

First-Time Penalty Abatement – You may qualify for administrative relief from penalties for failing to file your tax return on time, pay your taxes on time, or to deposit taxes when due under the IRS’s First-Time Penalty Abatement policy if the following are true:

  • You didn’t previously have to file a tax return or you have no penalties (except the estimated tax penalty) for the three tax years prior to the tax year in which you received a penalty;
  • You filed all currently required tax returns or filed a valid extension of time to file; and
  • You have paid, or have arranged to pay, any tax due.
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How will this affect me?

If you file your tax return or pay your taxes late, you can suffer a variety of consequences. This is true whether you have a refund coming or owe taxes. Consequences include:

Delay in receiving your refund
You won’t get your refund until you file your tax return.

Penalties and interest
The IRS may assess interest and penalties on your account.

The IRS may file a tax return on your behalf
This is called a Substitute for Return (SFR). Because the IRS may not have complete information about your situation, it may overstate your tax liability. This could mean you’d owe more taxes, or you will receive less of a refund than if you had filed your own return. If the IRS files an SFR, it’s still in your best interest to file your own tax return to take advantage of any exemptions, credits, and deductions you’re entitled to receive.

Collection actions
When you file a tax return or the IRS files an SFR for you that shows a balance due, the IRS will try to collect that amount. Depending on your situation, the IRS may file a lien that attaches to your property or rights to property or place a levy on your bank account, wages, or other sources of income.

Identity theft
Another possible consequence of not filing your own tax return is someone else might use your Social Security number and file a false tax return, stealing your identity. If this happens, when you do file, your return and any refund will be delayed while the IRS determines which return is correct.

Losing your refund
You must file your tax return within a specified period to receive a refund. In general, you can lose your refund if you don’t file within the statute of limitation.

The Refund Statute Expiration Date (RSED) is the end of the time period in which a taxpayer can make a claim with IRS for a credit or refund for a specific tax year(s). If a claim is not made within the specified time, then a taxpayer may no longer be entitled to a credit or refund.

Submitting a Claim for Refund

If you want to make a claim for refund with the IRS, we require that you provide a detailed set of facts showing the overpayment regarding which you’re seeking a refund or credit, and include a written statement showing the claim is made under penalties of perjury. Generally, submitting a Form 843, Claim for Refund and Request for Abatement, will satisfy this requirement. The Instructions for Form 843 will provide you with the purpose of the form, explain when you can use the Form 843 to make a claim, when the form is not appropriate, and when another form is needed to make your claim.

Generally, you must file a claim for a credit or refund within three years from the date you filed your original tax return or two years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later. If you file a claim after the three-year period, but within two years from the time you paid the tax, the credit or refund cannot be more than the tax you paid within the two years immediately before you filed the claim. See Pub. 556, Examination of Returns, Appeal Rights, and Claims for Refund, for more information.

The time period for filing a claim for refund may be different if your claim was filed regarding an exception, like a bad debt or worthless security. Periods of financial disability may suspend the time limitation for making a refund claim too. For more information on exceptions and periods of financial disability, see Pub. 556, Examination of Returns, Appeal Rights, and Claims for Refund.

If you do not file a claim within the set time prescribed by the IRS, you may no longer be entitled to the credit or refund.

If your claim for refund is disallowed, you will receive a certified letter explaining why your claim was disallowed and your right to appeal. You may also file a Refund Suit with the United States District Court or with the United States Court of Federal Claims within the statutory (by law) two-year period after receiving the letter of disallowance. Additional information on appealing or filing a refund suit would be found in your certified letter of disallowance.”

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Wait, I still need help.

The Taxpayer Advocate Service is an independent organization within the IRS that helps taxpayers and protects taxpayers’ rights. We can offer you help if your tax problem is causing a financial difficulty, you’ve tried and been unable to resolve your issue with the IRS, or you believe an IRS system, process, or procedure just isn’t working as it should. If you qualify for our assistance, which is always free, we will do everything possible to help you.

Visit www.taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov or call 1-877-777-4778.

Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITCs) are independent from the IRS and TAS. LITCs represent individuals whose income is below a certain level and who need to resolve tax problems with the IRS. LITCs can represent taxpayers in audits, appeals, and tax collection disputes before the IRS and in court. In addition, LITCs can provide information about taxpayer rights and responsibilities in different languages for individuals who speak English as a second language. Services are offered for free or a small fee. For more information or to find an LITC near you, see the LITC page on the TAS website or Publication 4134, Low Income Taxpayer Clinic List.

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