Tips for Filing a Late Tax Return

Elizabeth Rosen
by Elizabeth Rosen, Contributor

If you happen to miss the filing deadline (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 tax 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.

FREE: E-File Your Taxes Online Today

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 2013 tax return must be filed no later than April 15, 2017 if you want to get your refund.

Regardless your situation, it is always best to file and pay your taxes as soon as you can. The IRS imposes a late filing penalty, as well as a late payment penalty and interest charges. If you make zero 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.

FREE: Check Your 2014 Experian and TransUnion Credit Scores

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. That way, you will at least be able to avoid incurring a hefty late filing fee. 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 by credit card, check, money order, electronic funds transfer (EFT), and cashier’s check.

If you do not file your past due returns or pay your back taxes, be prepared for the IRS to 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."

READ: How to Handle an IRS Levy

Why You Should File Your Return ASAP

There are 2 big 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 money.

2. If you are self-employed, failing to file 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 are tasked with preparing tax returns for people who fail to file, and they may not include any of the tax credits and tax deductions that you are eligible for. The IRS employees send bills to non-filers for the taxes they owe, plus applicable 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. This gives the people who got a tax extension the opportunity to file online. After that date (October 15th), the IRS shuts down the e-file 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. (Note that interest charges may still apply to any tax that isn't paid by April 15.) Out of the country filers do not have to file a tax extension request (Form 4868) 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

Out of the country taxpayers who need more time to file (beyond the automatic 2-month extension) can request 4 additional months by filing a tax extension request (Form 4868) along with any taxes due.

READ: Fix Mistakes on Your Tax Return with Form 1040X