I haven't filed taxes in 10 years. What do I do? - PrecisionTax (2024)

Paying taxes is a responsibility for citizens, and they should be aware of possible consequences. Nevertheless, many people don’t file taxes for even 10 years. They don’t calculate IRS penalties and interest of unfiled tax returns.

What about you? Are you asking, “I haven’t filed taxes in 10 years. What do I do?” Then, you’re in the right place. A simplified guide to get you through this one is here.

Haven’t filed taxes in a long time?

In extreme cases, non-compliance can lead to imprisonment for up to 5 years and fines up to $250,000 under IRS regulations.


I haven't filed taxes in 10 years. What do I do? - PrecisionTax (1)
I haven't filed taxes in 10 years. What do I do? - PrecisionTax (2)

I haven't filed taxes in 10 years. What do I do? - PrecisionTax (3)

I haven't filed taxes in 10 years. What do I do? - PrecisionTax (4)

Why don’t people file their taxes?

Procrastination: Many taxpayers may think they have enough time. Or some of them may have already started the process but not completed it and missed the deadline.

Lack of knowledge: Some taxpayers don’t have a grasp of tax laws. It may seem complicated.

Financial hardship: People in financial hardship may not have the funds to pay for professional tax advice.

Personal problems: Illness, family emergencies, or other life events may take precedence, and tax preparation may fall to the bottom of the to-do list.

After a few years, they don’t know where to start: Sometimes, taxpayers may have missed filling out their taxes for a year. Then, they struggle to start over again.

Poor recordkeeping or no recordkeeping at all: Poor recordkeeping can make it difficult to complete tax returns correctly.

Consequences of not filing taxes

The IRS charges a 5% penalty for late tax returns for the Failure to File Penalty. The penalty could be up to 25% per month. Else? If you owe taxes and don’t pay them, the penalty is 0.5% of your unpaid taxes per month, up to a maximum of 25% of your unpaid taxes. It’s called the Failure to Pay Penalty. Besides, the IRS also charges interest (Interest Charges) on unpaid taxes and penalties.

What’s the worst-case scenario? Under the 7201 Code, the IRS may imprison you for up to 5 years, with a maximum fine of $250,000. What happens if you just don’t file for taxes?

If you haven’t filed taxes in 2 years:

Although the penalties don’t seem scary, the consequences can quickly get worse if you do nothing. Therefore, the penalties can be up to 25% of your unpaid tax liability.

If you haven’t filed taxes in 3 years:

The IRS allows a refund within three years. After that time, unclaimed refunds may be permanently forfeited. Besides, you can get higher penalties.

If you haven’t filed taxes in 5 years:

You’re at a higher risk. The IRS may file a Substitute for Return (SFR), often resulting in a higher tax liability. Such as tax garnishments or property restrictions, wage deductions, or the seizure of your assets.

If you haven’t filed taxes in 10 years:

The IRS might have already taken legal action against you. Worse, you may face tax evasion charges resulting in higher penalties or jail time.

Feeling Overwhelmed?

Get all of your questions answered by a licensed tax expert with a FREE, confidential consultation. Let Precision Tax Relief help you finally relieve the burden of tax debt.


What happens if you don’t file taxes for your business?

Why Should You File Your Taxes? No matter individual or business, you must report all taxable income and pay taxes according to the Internal Revenue Code. This process is important not only to pay your tax debt, but also to get a tax refund and claim tax deductions. Thus, you can reduce your tax debt. Besides, regularly filing your taxes also prevents accumulating debts. This way, you can avoid penalties and interest.

Of course, the consequences are different for each company. However, some general implications are:

  • Fines and interest
  • Loss of deductions and credits
  • General tax liens
  • Substitute for Return (SFR)
  • Revocation of corporate status

Negotiate the Tax Bill

You may face interest penalties and even jail time if you don’t pay your taxes for a long time, but above all, you always have a chance to negotiate. For this reason, talk to the IRS about an installment plan. You can also make partial payments to reduce interest. Try to explain with the Offer in Compromise that you couldn’t pay the debt due to life difficulties. However, working with a tax lawyer will make this process more stress-free and error-free.

How to file back taxes in 5 steps

Are you worrying and asking yourself, “How do I deal with the IRS for back taxes?” Don’t panic, just keep reading.

  1. Gather necessary documents

    Foremost, collect all relevant documentation for each tax year.

    • W-2s or 1099s for income received.
    • Bank statements, receipts, and invoices for deductible expenses.
    • Records of tax credits or deductions for which you’re eligible.
    • Any real estate, mortgage statements, and property tax documents.
    • Statements of investment accounts, including capital gains and losses.
  2. File your tax returns

    Then file your tax returns for each year.

    Never filed taxes before? It’s okay. All you need to determine which tax years you need to file. The IRS generally requires taxpayers to file their returns for the past six years. However, if everything seems complicated to you, consider getting helping from our free initial consultation.

    What is a deficiency assessment?

    After filing a tax return, the IRS examines it and sometimes may find discrepancies. The deficiency refers to the gap between the amount of tax taxpayers declare on their tax returns and the amount the IRS determines they actually owe. Besides, the IRS notifies taxpayers of this deficiency with a deficiency letter.

  3. Complete and mail your return

    Carefully fill out and complete your tax return(s). Include every source of income and claim every available deduction. If you filled out your tax return using online tax software, you’ll have to print the finished return out. Then mail it to the address included in the instructions for that year.

  4. Consider professional help

    Filing your tax returns can be a daunting task. A qualified tax professional can help you:

    • Navigate through the tax return process.
    • Track down tax deductions and credits you may have missed.
    • Negotiate with the IRS to minimize penalties and interest.
    • Establish a payment plan or settlement offer, if necessary.
  5. Address any outstanding tax debts

    The IRS offers various solutions for taxpayers:

    • Paying the full amount owed, if possible.
    • Paying the debt in monthly installments.
    • Asking for a settlement offer to pay the debt for less than the full amount owed.
    • Sentence reduction or other relief programs.


Every year you ignore it, the penalty gets higher. However, you can minimize your tax penalties with an accurate action plan. It’s understandable if you get lost in the tax laws because citizens can’t have full knowledge of the tax law as experts. Consulting with an expert is a stress-free and quick way to solve the problem if you’re dealing with high tax penalties.

I haven't filed taxes in 10 years. What do I do? - PrecisionTax (2024)


I haven't filed taxes in 10 years. What do I do? - PrecisionTax? ›

Negotiate the Tax Bill

How do I file my taxes if I haven't filed for 10 years? ›

File the Missing Returns

There is no time limit for submitting a previously unfiled return, but if you still want to claim a refund, you have up to 3 years from the return's due date. Therefore, gathering and locating all the relevant financial records for each return is essential.

How do I catch up on years of unfiled taxes? ›

You can contact a tax professional or the IRS for help with filing delinquent returns. If you are unable to fully pay any tax due on the late returns, do not let this prevent you from filing — payment options may be available.

How far back should I file unfiled tax returns? ›

The simple answer is six years. According to tax law, if you have six years or less of unfiled taxes, you must file them to get back into good standing with the IRS. This article will share some tips on catching up with back taxes if you owe them.

What happens if you skip years filing taxes? ›

It's illegal. The law requires you to file every year that you have a filing requirement. The government can hit you with civil and even criminal penalties for failing to file your return.

Do I need to file taxes from 10 years ago? ›

The IRS prefers that you file all back tax returns for years you have not yet filed. That said, the IRS usually only requires you to file the last six years of tax returns to be considered in good standing. Even so, the IRS can go back more than six years in certain instances.

Who qualifies for the IRS fresh start program? ›

General Initiative Eligibility

You should be current on all federal tax filings and owe no more than $50,000 in back taxes, interest and penalties combined. If you're a small business owner, you could be eligible for relief under the Fresh Start Initiative if you owe no more than $25,000 in payroll taxes.

Does IRS always catch unfiled taxes? ›

It is always in your best interest to file back tax returns because the IRS will catch up with you eventually. In addition, the IRS commonly announces that filing timely will allow you to collect your refund if filed within three years… so don't lose out.

What is the IRS 6 year rule? ›

6 years - If you don't report income that you should have reported, and it's more than 25% of the gross income shown on the return, or it's attributable to foreign financial assets and is more than $5,000, the time to assess tax is 6 years from the date you filed the return.

Can the IRS go back more than 10 years? ›

In some cases, the IRS can take more than 10 years to collect tax debts. This happens when an event causes the clock to stop ticking on the statute of limitations and the deadline gets extended. This is called tolling the statute of limitations.

Why is the IRS trying to collect after 10 years? ›

When we're prohibited by law from collecting tax, the CSED collection period is generally suspended, which means the time we can collect tax pauses. In contrast, when we're permitted by law to add time to the 10 years to collect, the CSED is extended, which means we can continue to collect tax.

How much money do you have to owe the IRS before you go to jail? ›

You ignore the bill and all of the IRS's collection notices. At this point, the IRS may obtain a civil judgment against you for the $10,000. This gives the IRS the right to issue a federal tax lien, seize your assets, garnish your wages, or take other collection actions. The IRS cannot put you in jail.

What if I don't file taxes but I don't owe? ›

There's no penalty for failure to file if you're due a refund. However, you risk losing a refund altogether if you file a return or otherwise claim a refund after the statute of limitations has expired.

Can you get a tax refund with no income? ›

If you qualify for tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit, you can receive a refund even if your tax is $0. To claim the credits, you have to file your 1040 and other tax forms.

Can I file a tax return if I haven't filed in years? ›

Three Years or Less — Due a Tax Refund

Even if you aren't required to file, you may want to file to get a tax refund. You have three years from the filing deadline to claim a tax refund. Once that date passes, you can still file, but you forfeit your refund.

Can I still file my taxes if I haven't filed in years? ›

If you haven't filed your federal income tax return for this year or for previous years, you should file your return as soon as possible regardless of your reason for not filing the required return. If you need help, check our website.

Can I file this years tax return if I didn t file last years? ›

Can you file taxes from previous years? If you didn't file a federal income tax return for the last few years, you might wonder if you're still responsible for filing those late returns. The answer is “yes” in most cases.

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