Don’t wait to file past-due federal income tax returns

As the end of the year approaches, it is time to start thinking about preparing your 2012 income tax return. But what if you are one of the thousands of people who have failed to file one or more previous years' returns? Will filing a tax return this year simply draw attention to your past omissions?

Failing to pay individual income taxes or file a return is a serious violation of federal tax law, and continued failure to file will only make problems worse. With that said, it is important to talk with an experienced tax law attorney before filing tax returns or other paperwork with the Internal Revenue Service. An attorney will be able to review your case and make sure you are in the best position possible to start working with the IRS.

If you're like most people, you are probably pretty nervous to confront your tax problems head on. However, it is much better to be proactive than to wait for the government to find you. If you are behind on your tax returns, you might find the following information reassuring:

  • The IRS wants to work with you: It is very rare for the IRS to threaten a cooperative person with jail time. In the vast majority of cases, they will work with you to figure out a realistic plan.
  • You don't need every record: Don't let the fact that you haven't hung on to every receipt and tax record stop you from addressing your problems. Your tax attorney will be able to help you obtain duplicate copies and fill in any information gaps.
  • You probably won't owe as much as you think: When income tax returns aren't filed, the IRS estimates the tax liability based on substitute filed returns. Usually, the estimated liabilities on SFRs are higher than the actual amount owed once a correct tax return is prepared
  • The IRS will take your situation into account: Sometimes, the IRS will reduce or eliminate your late filing penalties if you have a good reason for not filing your tax returns.

Penalties for failure to file tax returns

Individuals who don't file federal income tax returns can face some significant penalties. At the very least, the IRS will likely assess penalties and interest charges on the amount owed, making the outstanding tax bill even higher. The IRS will also prepare a substitute return, which, as mentioned above, usually shows a tax liability that is much higher than what is actually owed. The IRS will use the SFR to start the collections process, which can include garnishing wages, placing levies on bank accounts or filing federal tax liens against a person's property.

In some cases, individuals who fail to file tax returns can also be subject to criminal liability and prison time.

If you have failed to file previous years' income tax returns, it is best not to wait any longer. Contact an experienced income tax attorney who can help you reach a solution with the IRS.

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