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Feature Articles: Taxes

Haven't Filed Last Year's Tax Return?
Here's What to Do

Reviewed and adapted with special permission from the IRS by: Brenda Procter, M.S., State Specialist & Instructor Personal Financial Planning, University of Missouri Extension

There are many reasons you might not have filed a tax return in previous years. You may not have known whether you were required to file. Whatever the reason, it’s best to file your return as soon as you can. If you need help, even with a late return, the IRS may assist you.

The failure to file a return can cost you — whether you end up owing more or missing out on a refund. If you owe taxes, a delay in filing may result in a "failure to file" penalty and interest charges. The longer you delay, the larger these charges become. Ignoring any IRS tax bill that you owe will not make it go away. If you cannot afford to pay past due amounts at one time, you can usually work out a payment plan with the IRS.

There is no penalty for failure to file if you are due a refund. However, you cannot get a refund without filing a tax return. If you wait too long to file, you may risk losing the refund altogether. The deadline for claiming refunds is three years after the due date of a return.

Individuals who are entitled to the Earned Income Tax Credit must file their return to claim the credit even if they are not otherwise required to file.


Whether or not you must file a tax return depends upon a number of things, including your filing status, age and gross income. Some taxpayers are required to file whether or not they owe money. Even if you do not meet any of the requirements to file, you can and should file a return if you are due a refund.

To find out the consequences of not having filed in the past or for more information on how to file a tax return for a prior year, call the IRS toll-free Tax Help Line for Individuals at 1-800-829-1040 or visit your local IRS office.


Earned Income Tax Credit

Previous Years' Forms


Source: IRS Tax Tip 2005-18





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Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009