Back Taxes & Delinquent Taxes

Haven’t filed your taxes in a while? You may owe back taxes or you may be missing out on a refund.

File your federal tax returns for missing years as soon as possible to avoid possible tax liabilities, claim a refund for the previous 3 tax years, protect your Social Security and disability benefits, and avoid delayed loan approvals from lenders. If you have received a notice in the mail, promptly send your past due tax return to the appropriate IRS address.

How to File Back Taxes

  1. Gather important documents. For each year that you failed to file a federal tax return, make sure you have your W-2 or Form 1099 on hand. Remember that well-kept receipts are needed to claim certain deductions and credits.
  2. Locate missing paperwork. A copy of your income information can be requested from your employer. Tax documents can also be requested from the IRS by filing Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return. The IRS will send transcripts that contain the most important information, not duplicate copies, from your previous W-2s and Forms 1098 and 1099.
  3. File your back taxes using the necessary forms. Taxes for previous years will need to be filed by hand using instructions from that tax year. Download the most popular tax forms for previous tax years here.
  4. Submit your forms to the IRS. Once the necessary forms are received by the IRS, you are fully responsible for paying what is owed. You should receive a bill with the exact amount due, including any interest charges that have accrued. It takes the IRS approximately 6 weeks to process past due tax returns.


Making Payments

You can request a 60- to 120-day window to pay your tax bill in full on the IRS website or by calling 800-829-1040 at no additional charge. An installment agreement or offer in compromise are possible options should you need more time to make the full payment amount.

The IRS will allow you basic living expenses in the event that your delinquent tax debt is substantial. The amount of living expenses you receive will depend on the size of your family and national and local standards. Basic living expenses include housing, utilities, transportation, food, clothing and out-of-pocket health care.


IRS Can Take Action

Failure to file a past due return can have serious repercussions. If a tax return is not received, the IRS can file a substitute return on your behalf using information collected from your employer, bank, and other sources. This return will lead to a tax bill. If this bill is never paid, the delinquent tax collection process will begin, allowing the IRS to levy your wages or bank account or even file a federal tax lien against you.

Refer to our Tax Glossary for a complete list of definitions and explanations of commonly used tax terms.

Updated for 2018 Tax Year