I Havent Filed a Tax Return with IRS in Years, What Do I Do?

In elementary school, kids come up with creative excuses why they did not bring in their homework. "My dog ate it" or "It was stolen by invisible space aliens" might be given as a reason why something was not turned in on time. Don't try those excuses with the IRS! Don't blame divorce, business failures, or family troubles either, because except under extreme circumstances, they won't register with the taxman.

If you have unfiled tax returns, you need to file at least the last 6-7 years. Although under law IRS could make you go back and file that return from the late 1970's when you were a disco diva or urban cowboy, the good news is that as a matter of policy they don't! In most cases, filing the last 6-7 years will be OK and IRS will consider you in compliance. So don't procrastinate any further, file the returns if you made over the standard deduction and personal exemption amounts during those years or were self-employed.

People delay filing returns for 3 main reasons:

1. They are afraid or embarrassed;

2. They have lost the records or don't know where to go to get the returns done; or

3. Some crackpot advised them income taxes are bogus and that they don't have to file.

Don't be afraid of filing, be afraid of what will happen if you don't file. IRS could file for you and you might owe more than if you would have done it yourself or IRS could send somebody out looking for you. It is not a crime to owe IRS money, it can be a crime under some circumstances for not filing a tax return or a false return.

If you lost your records relax, in most case you can get all your income data from IRS so that you can prepare the tax returns. If you had deductions, you may have to dig those up and organize your records.

IRS is a legitimate government agency and they can and do enforce the laws on filing a Federal Tax Return. It sounds good when somebody says IRS is a fraud, but it is a lie. We all have to pay taxes.

If you havent't filed in years you can call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 and after lots of time on hold and maybe a few transfers, you will eventually get somebody who can help you get your W2 info mailed to you. Your local library may have old tax forms and tax books to help you do the returns. You can do it yourself, but I suggest getting a professional to help you.

Don't go to some guy or gal advertising on TV with a big company. Go to a professional person or small firm where you can talk one on one with a CPA, Enrolled Agent, or Tax Attorney. It doesn't have to be a local person, you could hire someone across the country. With email, fax, etc. you can avoid some embarassment of going to a local tax pro if you live in a small town by hiring someone far away. But don't hire somebody without checking them out. Read any contract they send you. Don't part with your hard earned money unless you are sure of their qualifications.

Members of the following organizations must adhere to high ethical standards and might be a good choice for you: National Society of Accountants (NSA); National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA); or the American Insitute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). You might also look for professionals holding the Accredited Tax Preparer (ATP) or Accredited Tax Advisor (ATA) designation.

Don't let your cousin Jimmy do your returns or that nice neighbor who says he is an expert. I have seen more screwed up returns done by friends and relatives than I care to remember.

Get peace of mind, file those returns. You may owe money but you may have a refund waiting. Guess what, if you file the return more than three years after the due date; you lose the refund!

Here are some sites that can give you more info:

www.irs.gov
www.naea.org
www.nsacct.org
www.exirsman.com

James Robert Coleman, E.A., A.T.A.
Enrolled Agent & Accredited Tax Advisor
Member: National Association of Enrolled Agents
Former IRS Revenue Officer, GS-11
http://www.exirsman.com

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The Tax Increases to Come  The Wall Street Journal
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