• RoShawn Winburn

Missed the Tax Deadline? Failed to File?

Here's what to do now, and why, from IRS.gov.

COVID Tax Tip 2021-69, May 18, 2021


The federal income tax deadline has passed for most individual taxpayers. However, some haven't filed their 2020 tax returns or paid their tax due.


If an individual taxpayer is owed a refund, there's no penalty for filing late. On the other hand, tax owed and not paid by May 17, 2021 is subject to penalties and interest.


Anyone who didn't file and owes tax should file a return as soon as they can and pay as much as they can to reduce penalties and interest. Electronic filing options, including IRS Free File, are still available on IRS.gov through October 15, 2021, to prepare and file returns electronically.


Taxpayers should then review their payment options. The IRS has information for taxpayers who can't pay taxes they owe.


Some taxpayers may have extra time to file their tax returns and pay any taxes due. This includes some disaster victims, taxpayers living overseas, certain military service members and eligible support personnel in combat zones.


Filing soon is very important because the late-filing and late-payment penalties on unpaid taxes add up quickly. However, in some cases, a taxpayer filing after the deadline may qualify for penalty relief. For those charged a penalty, they may contact the IRS by calling the number on their notice and explain why they couldn't file and pay on time.


Taxpayers who have a history of filing and paying on time often qualify for administrative penalty relief. A taxpayer usually qualifies if they have filed and paid timely for the past three years and meet other requirements. For details, taxpayers should visit the first-time penalty abatement page on IRS.gov.


State filing and payment deadlines may be different from the federal deadline. A list of state tax division websites is available through the Federation of Tax Administrators.

Filing Past Due Tax Returns


File all tax returns that are due, regardless of whether or not you can pay in full. File your past due return the same way and to the same location where you would file an on-time return. If you have received a notice, make sure to send your past due return to the location indicated on the notice you received.

Why You Should File Your Past Due Return Now

Avoid interest and penalties File your past due return and pay now to limit interest charges and late payment penalties.

Claim a Refund You risk losing your refund if you don't file your return. If you are due a refund for withholding or estimated taxes, you must file your return to claim it within 3 years of the return due date. The same rule applies to a right to claim tax credits such as the Earned Income Credit. The IRS holds income tax refunds in cases where their records show that one or more income tax returns are past due. They hold them until they get the past due return or receive an acceptable reason for not filing a past due return.

Protect Social Security Benefits If you are self-employed and do not file your federal income tax return, any self-employment income you earned will not be reported to the Social Security Administration and you will not receive credits toward Social Security retirement or disability benefits.

Avoid Issues Obtaining Loans Loan approvals may be delayed if you don't file your return. Copies of filed tax returns must be submitted to financial institutions, mortgage lenders/brokers, etc., whenever you want to buy or refinance a home, get a loan for a business, or apply for federal aid for higher education.

If You Owe More Than You Can Pay If you cannot pay what you owe, you can request an additional 60-120 days to pay your account in full through the Online Payment Agreement application or by calling 800-829-1040; no user fee will be charged. If you need more time to pay, you can request an installment agreement or you may qualify for an offer in compromise.

What If You Don’t File Voluntarily

Substitute Return If you fail to file, the IRS may file a substitute return for you. This return might not give you credit for deductions and exemptions you may be entitled to receive. The IRS will send you a Notice of Deficiency CP3219N (90-day letter) proposing a tax assessment. You will have 90 days to file your past due tax return or file a petition in Tax Court. If you do neither, the IRS will proceed with their proposed assessment. If you have received notice CP3219N you can not request an extension to file.

If any of the income listed is incorrect, you may do the following:

  • Contact the IRS at 1-866-681-4271 to let them know.

  • Contact the payer (source) of the income to request a corrected Form W-2 or 1099.

  • Attach the corrected forms when you send the IRS your completed tax returns.

If the IRS files a substitute return, it is still in your best interest to file your own tax return to take advantage of any exemptions, credits and deductions you are entitled to receive. The IRS will generally adjust your account to reflect the correct figures. Collection and Enforcement Actions

The return the IRS prepares for you (our proposed assessment) will lead to a tax bill, which, if unpaid, will trigger the collection process. This can include such actions as a levy on your wages or bank account or the filing of a notice of federal tax lien.

If you repeatedly do not file, you could be subject to additional enforcement measures, such as additional penalties and/or criminal prosecution.

Help Filing Your Past Due Return For filing help, call 1-800-829-1040 or 1-800-829-4059 for TTY/TDD.

If you need wage and income information to help prepare a past due return, complete Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return, and check the box on line 8. You can also contact your employer or payer of income.

If you need information from a prior year tax return, use Get Transcript to request a return or account transcript.

Get the online tax forms and instructions to file your past due return, or order them by calling 1-800-Tax-Form (1-800-829-3676) or 1-800-829-4059 for TTY/TDD.

If you are experiencing difficulty preparing your return, you may be eligible for assistance through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) or the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs. See Free Tax Preparation for Qualifying Taxpayers for more information.

Already Filed Your Past Due Return If you received a notice, you should send a copy of the past due return to the indicated address. It takes approximately 6 weeks to process an accurately completed past due tax return.


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