How Far Back Can You File Taxes?

No one likes doing taxes. Sometimes it seems like such a chore that a tax return never gets filed. The reasons for this are many. Maybe you know you’re going to owe, and you also know that you can’t afford to pay it. Perhaps you couldn’t find all the records you needed to complete the return. In some cases, people haven’t filed a return for so many years that they simply give up because they don’t know where to start. The good news is that there are ways to get back on track with the IRS.

How Far Back Can You File a Tax Return?

The IRS requires that you file a tax return for every year that you are eligible. Accordingly, you can file as far back in time as you’d like. So if you were required to file a tax return in 1994, but just didn’t realize you were supposed to, it’s still not too late to fix it. However, the IRS is most concerned with tax records over the last seven years. This means that filing any returns that were due in the period extending back seven years from today should be a priority. In most cases it’s best to act sooner rather than later. If you were owed a refund on any of those prior year tax returns, you can only collect it if you file the return within three years of the original tax deadline. Keep in mind that the IRS will expect you to pay any amount you owe. It may be possible to set up a payment plan or to make an offer in compromise to settle your tax debt.

How to File Back Taxes?

Filing back taxes can be tricky because you’ll need to have appropriate forms and instructions for the missing year or years. You’ll need your W-2 and any 1099 forms from that year. You may obtain them by contacting your employer. If this isn’t possible, you can download Form 4852 from the IRS website. Filing this form should provide you with the income information you need. The IRS website is also the place to find tax forms and instructions from prior years. Don’t neglect any deductions and exemptions for which you were eligible that year. Just because you’re filing late doesn’t mean that you forfeit these benefits. Mail in the completed forms, keeping a complete copy for your records.

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