When You Forget to File

There’s a few things you should know if you forget to file your tax return:


There is a statute of limitations for claiming your refund.  People have 3 years from the due date of the original return to file their taxes.  Therefore, your 2012 taxes should have been filed by 4/15/2013 but you have until 4/15/2016 to file and claim your refund.  The refund expires after the three years, therefore, you cannot collect it from the IRS nor can the IRS apply the refund balance to a later year.


The IRS may prepare a tax return for you so they can assess tax and begin collection activities, this is called a substitute tax return.  You will receive an assessment letter stating the IRS position on what you owe.  The letter will summarize the source of income the IRS used to calculate the tax.  You will have 30 days from the date of the letter to one of the following:

  • Complete and send in a tax return;
  • Complete and send in a Consent to Assessment and Collection form; or
  • Send in a statement explaining why you don’t have to file a tax return.

Remember the IRS will prepare a substitute tax return in the government’s best interest so the IRS will not include deductions and credits most likely resulting in a higher tax owed.

The first thing you need to do is gather up as much documentation from those years as possible and contact a tax professional like myself and make an appointment. Always ask the tax professional “Who will be working on my return, will it passed off to someone else?” and “Is the pricing upfront or based on hours?”

If you cannot find some of your tax documents, you can obtain some of these documents from the IRS. Tax documents such as W-2s and 1099s can be acquired via the wage and income transcript from the IRS.


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