What If I Have Unfiled Income Tax Returns?

Many taxpayers miss the tax return filing deadline for various reasons and thus fall behind on their tax return obligations. Unfiled income tax returns can become a very overwhelming problem. Unexpected life events, financial hardship, and a myriad of other reasons can be the cause of your unfiled returns. Thankfully, with the help and strategy of a tax professional, there are ways to resolve the problem of unfiled income tax returns.

Reasons for Unfiled Tax Returns

Life happens- unexpected events and changes in your life can easily impact your ability to file your tax returns. Most people fail to file their tax returns due to unintentional mis­takes or oversight. Many people also believe that they do not have a filing requirement with the IRS because of their age or income level. The IRS website provides the minimum income filing requirement for your age and filing status for that given year which is typically explained in the yearly 1040 instructions provided by the IRS.

Once you have determined that you do have a filing requirement, you will need become compliant with your delinquent returns. You will likely need to seek out help to ensure previous tax year instructions are followed and all required documentation is filed. Everyone makes mistakes, and people often let federal returns go unfiled for very legitimate reasons. To ease your burden through this process, consider a consultation with a tax professional at CuraDebt.

Potential Consequences For Non-filers

If you have a filing requirement and have not filed your federal tax return, the IRS will issue a notice to your address on file. With the help of a tax professional, once you have assessed which notice you received, you will know how to move forward in order to become current on your missing returns. You should be aware that the IRS may attempt to contact you by telephone or, depending on the severity of the case, assign the matter to a Revenue Officer for field investigation.

The IRS will find out how much money or income you made even if you did not file your tax return. In order to do that, the IRS will prepare a substitute for return, “SFR”, to determine your tax liability for the unfiled tax return. More often than not, your tax owed will be higher when the IRS files a “SFR” than if you prepared the return yourself. While preparing an SFR, the IRS does not take into account your deductions or credits so the balance due will nearly always be higher than the actual return. Regardless of how long the return has been unfiled and even if the IRS has filed an SFR for you, you still have the right to file your original returns. Don’t pay what you don’t owe- the sooner you file those missing returns, the sooner you will know what you actually owe in order to avoid additional penalties and interest.

The IRS can charge for unfiled tax returns on several grounds; failure to file penalty- this is usually 5% of the total balance for each month. It can increase up to 25% of total balance while interest is charged at 4% of the unpaid balances. Filing a timely return without payment will only result in a late payment penalty, which ranges from .05% to 1% per month. In all cases the IRS will add interest at the statutory rates.In extreme cases, IRS may even investigate for pos­si­ble fil­ing of crim­i­nal charges. This is generally a rare occurrence unless the IRS can prove that the taxpayer deliberately committed fraud. The IRS has 10 years to collect an outstanding debt from the date the tax was assessed so they will likely remain persistent if you have tax due from these unfiled returns.

If you have unfiled tax returns, the penalties and interest can become financially debilitating. With the assistance of a tax professional, you can unburden yourself by filing those returns and becoming compliant and debt-free with the IRS.

Income Tax Refund

If you have unfiled returns and believe that you are entitled to an income tax refund, you will have up to 3 years from the due date of a tax return to request a refund. Due to federal tax withholding or estimated tax payments, there is a limited period of time that you can obtain a refund of money that you overpaid. All federal tax withholding that occurred throughout a calendar year is considered paid to the IRS on April 15 of the following year. Once three years has gone by, you cannot request your refund or receive a benefit of that refund.

Blackboard showing solution with problem crossed out.

Legal Solutions For Tax Problems

Legal solutions are available for your unfiled tax returns. Often times, the IRS has much of the missing data (such as W-2 or 1099 forms from your employer) you need to be able to prepare your missing returns. But even if your information is not readily accessible, the IRS has a transcript delivery system which also has much of your tax information as well. An experienced CuraDebt tax professional can help you access your transcripts so you can put together your tax return.

After you have filed those missing returns, it will be time to pay off the accumulated debt to the IRS. The IRS allows taxpayers to set payment methods as a way to allow people come up with ways to remit payments. This includes:

  • An Installment Agreement. This method allows some flexibility- under an installment agreement, you to pay the entire amount of your debt in monthly installments over a period of up to six years. This method allows you to pay in small, manageable amounts so that the debt is not overwhelming.
  • An Offer In Compromise. Under this method, IRS will allow you to pay a lesser amount as satisfaction of the entire debt. However, in order to qualify, the IRS will thoroughly investigate your financial situation. They will look to see if there will be any future possibility that you could pay off the whole debt. It is very important to work with an experienced tax professional that can assist you through this process.
  • A Partial Payment Installment Agreement. This method allows individuals to pay a reduced amount of tax debt in monthly installments. The payment amount is lower than a standard installment agreement. If you do qualify, you will be subject to a thorough financial review every two years. Based on this review, the IRS has the discretion to increase your payments if you have had an increase in income. Lastly, just like a regular installment agreement, your federal tax lien is released when you pay your balance in full or when the collection statute expires.
  • A Staggered Installment Agreement. Under this method, the installment agreement begins in the same fashion as a partial payment agreement, with lower monthly payments. Then after a specified period of time (such as 1 year), the monthly payment automatically increases to a higher amount. The IRS does not always offer this arrangement, so it will be helpful to have an experienced tax professional that can negotiate this agreement on your behalf.
  • Currently Non-collectible Status. Under “currently non-collectible” status, the IRS will generally stop all collection activities. The statute of limitations will continue to run, and if your financial situation does not improve in this time, the tax debts owed will expire. The IRS will periodically review your financial situation to make sure you are not receiving more income than initially determined. Generally, unless your financial situation changes, the account will remain in CNC status until the tax liabilities expire. However, if your financial situation improves the account will be taken off of CNC status so that the IRS can collect through another method, i.e. an Installment Agreement.
  • Proper Compliance. It is entirely possible that you don’t owe any tax at all and might even be entitled to a refund. By filing your past due returns, you could be receiving a check from the government for money owed to you. The only way to ensure you receive your refund is to properly file all your missing returns as soon as you can.


Filing your past due returns and choosing a repayment method can be overwhelming and daunting. For instance, you may feel that your installment agreement monthly payment amount is too high or you may not be satisfied with other terms of the agreement.  That’s where CuraDebt tax professionals come in.  IRS agents are willing to negotiate and CuraDebt tax professionals have experience dealing with them- we will handle negotiations on your behalf. We have facilitated countless negotiations with the IRS and know how to help you achieve the tax resolution results you need.

You have the right to adequate tax representation. Reach out to CuraDebt—a reputable debt and tax relief company helping people nationwide for over 16 years. We can help you manage your unfiled tax returns today. Contact us at 1-877-999-0486 for a free tax consultation.

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