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Topic 153 - What to Do if You Haven't Filed Your Tax Return

You haven't filed your federal income tax return for this year or previous years. Regardless of your reason for not filing a required return, file your tax return as soon as possible. If you need help, check our website. We have many tools and resources available, such as the Interactive Tax Assistant (ITA), FAQs, and Tax Trails.

If you're not sure whether you're required to file a return, visit Do I Need to File a Tax Return or refer to Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax for Individuals. If you're required to file and owe a balance, but you can't pay all of the tax due on your return, the IRS may be able to help you establish a payment agreement. For additional information on tax payment options, refer to Topic 202.

If your return wasn't filed by the due date (including extensions of time to file):

  • You may be subject to the failure to file penalty, unless you have reasonable cause for your failure to file timely.
  • Tax not paid in full by the original due date of the return (regardless of extensions of time to file) may also result in the failure to pay penalty, unless you have reasonable cause for your failure to pay timely, or the IRS has approved your application Form 1127 (PDF), Application for Extension of Time for Payment of Tax Due to Undue Hardship).
  • Interest is charged on taxes not paid by the due date, even if you have an extension of time to file, and is also charged on penalties.
  • There's no penalty for failure to file if you're due a refund. However, you risk losing a refund altogether if you file a return or otherwise claim a refund after the statute of limitations has expired. An original return claiming a refund must be filed within 3 years of its due date for a refund to be allowed in most instances. After the expiration of the three-year period, the refund statute prevents the issuance of a refund check and the application of any credits, including overpayments of estimated or withholding taxes, to other tax years that are underpaid. However, the statute of limitations for the IRS to assess and collect any outstanding balances doesn't start until a return has been filed. In other words, there's no statute of limitations for assessing and collecting the tax if no return has been filed.

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Page Last Reviewed or Updated: March 24, 2017