Filing a Late Tax Return

Elizabeth Rosen
by Elizabeth Rosen, Contributor


If you happen to miss the filing deadline (typically April 15th), you should still try to file your income tax return as soon as possible -- especially if you owe additional taxes.

The longer you wait to file your return, the more penalties and interest charges that can build up. These will all have to be paid in addition to any money you already owe the IRS.

However, if you are due a tax refund, you do not have to worry as much if you missed the April filing deadline. In order to receive your tax refund though, you will need to file your return within 3 years (according to the IRS statute of limitations). For example, a 2010 tax return must be file no later than April of 2013.

Regardless your situation, it is always best to file and pay your taxes as soon as you can. If you make no effort to pay your taxes, the IRS may levy your bank accounts and wages, or take other assets. Additionally, the IRS may file a Notice of Federal Tax Lien on a delinquent taxpayer which can have a negative impact on their credit rating.

Did You Miss the Filing Deadline? Here’s What You Can Do

Filing a late tax return can be easier than you think. You should make sure to file all tax returns that are due, whether or not you can make payments with them. Depending on your situation, you may even qualify for an IRS payment plan or installment agreement.

Late Tax Payments

There are many different ways you can make a tax payment -- including credit card, check, money order, electronic funds transfer, cashier’s check, and even cash.

If you do not file your past due returns or pay your back taxes, understand that the IRS can take further actions against you. According to the IRS, “Taxpayers who continue to not file a required return and fail to respond to IRS requests for a return may be considered for a variety of enforcement actions. Continued non-compliance by flagrant or repeat non-filers could result in additional penalties and/or criminal prosecution.”

Why You Should File Your Return ASAP

There are two major reasons why you should file your tax return as soon as you can:

1. If you are due a tax refund, you must file your return within 3 years of the due date or you could lose the right to your refund.

2. If you are self-employed, not filing a return can result in receiving no credits for Social Security benefits.

Taxpayer who cannot afford to pay their entire tax bill should still file their returns to prevent further filing penalties. The IRS will generally work with taxpayers to set up an installment agreement payment plan or other type of compromise.

Not filing your return will most likely prompt the IRS to take enforcement steps against you, since you are not complying with the law. IRS employees will prepare tax returns for those who do not file, and may not include any tax credits or tax deductions that you could be eligible for. The IRS employees will send bills to non-filers for the taxes they owe, plus late fees and interest charges.

E-Filing a Late Tax Return

You can e-file your tax return up to 6 months after the original filing deadline. After that point (typically October 15th), the IRS shuts down the e-filing server and begins preparing for the next tax filing season. Therefore, you will need to file a paper tax return beyond that point.

Special Situations for Late Tax Returns

If you are out of the country on the original April filing deadline, you are allowed to have 2 extra months to file your tax return and pay any tax due. Out of the country filers do not have to file a tax extension request in order to receive these extra 2 months. The IRS defines “out of the country” as follows:

  • You live outside of the United States and Puerto Rico, and your main place of work is outside the United States and Puerto Rico; OR
  • You are in military or naval service outside the United States and Puerto Rico

Taxpayers who need more time to file can request 4 additional months by filing a tax extension request, along with any taxes due.