Pin Me

Guide to Filing Taxes Late

written by: Stephanie Mojica•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 11/3/2009

Filing taxes late can be a headache, but is one worth conquering. Failure to submit tax returns, whether federal or state, can lead to criminal prosecution and even jail time in some cases.

  • slide 1 of 4

    Getting Started

    Whatever the reason for filing taxes late, it is important to ensure you have the correct documents to proceed. You may already have all your wage information (usually through W-2 and 1099 forms) from your employer(s) and/or any firm or person for which you worked as an independent contractor.

    If you do not have these forms, there are several ways to get the appropriate information. You can contact your employer(s) and/or those for which you did contract work and ask for the W-2 and 1099 forms. If you are filing taxes from more than a few years ago, the issuing party may not have the information readily available. In this case, you will need to call or visit the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to get the income information and tax withholdings for the appropriate year or year(s). Keep in mind that these IRS transcripts will NOT have any state tax withholding information, so this may not help you with filing taxes late for a state.

  • slide 2 of 4

    Actually Filing Taxes Late

    Once you have your appropriate wage information, make sure you didn't have anything in the tax years which you could deduct. Examples include college tuition payments, child support, day care expenses, retirement account contributions, or moving expenses.

    Filing taxes late is usually easiest when using tax preparation software programs like TaxACT or TurboTax. Even if your tax return is 10 or more years late, you can usually buy a copy online for $15 or less. You have the option to download the software directly to your computer or have a disc mailed to your home or business.

    Using tax preparation software generally is as easy as following along with the on-screen prompts and answering questions appropriately. The program will then prepare your federal and/or state return and allow you to print it. Programs like TaxACT or TurboTax will print approved forms. You then sign the paperwork and mail it in to the appropriate agency. It is a good idea to mail the tax return using trackable delivery methods such as certified mail, Priority Mail with delivery confirmation, Express Mail, or a service such as UPS, DHL, or FedEx.

  • slide 3 of 4

    Refunds or Payments

    If you are owed a state or federal tax refund, you usually have only three years to claim it. So if your tax return was later than three years and showed a refund, you will be unable to claim the money. However, failure to file a tax return can be considered a crime so you did save yourself potential legal penalties by filing the return.

    If you owe money to any tax agency, you may be subject to penalties which can exceed 25 percent for filing late. If you have serious tax problems, you may need an attorney to help negotiate a settlement on your behalf. The IRS and state tax agencies do normally allow payment plans. Remember failing to pay owed taxes can lead to wage garnishment, seizure of assets, and sometimes criminal sanctions.

  • slide 4 of 4


    "Filing Late and/or Paying Late.",,id=108326,00.html

    "Forgot to file? Forgot to pay? We can help!"