Filing Prior Year Tax Returns: What to do if You Have Been Naughty

By Pamela S Stevens
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If you have missed the deadline for filing your taxes with the IRS, believe it or not you are not alone. It is estimated that in 2007 1.1 million people did not file, and those who didn't file have lost their rights to their tax refund if they were owed one. As you might expect, there are consequences for not filing your prior year tax returns. If you are within three years of being current there are fewer negative repercussions to deal with, but it's still not something you will want to put off much longer.

Shows the years 2008, 2009 amd 2010 next to a clock.Few people can get away with not filing. If you are an adult and earned more than $9,500, you need to file. Even if you only earned $400 in self-employment income or $108.28 as a church employee you need to file. If you sold your house, you need to file. If you made excess contributions to your IRA or MSA, you need to file. The old clichéd phrase "you can't hide from the tax man" is true.

If you do not file you could face fines or even criminal charges. There are a few ways that you can file your prior year taxes. If money is not an issue, you can hand over your paperwork and hire a professional tax preparer to put your taxes in order for you. This can be costly. If you have not filed your returns in a few years, most often it's because you're afraid of how much you owe and you don't have extra cash on hand. So hiring a professional may not be an affordable option.

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A more affordable way to prepare your return easily is by using tax software. Through TurboTax, you can purchase tax software that goes back to 2007, H&R Block can help you back to 1992 and TaxACT to 2000. Filing for prior years does cost more though. For example, using TurboTax for 2010 costs $59.95 for federal and $44.95 for state. Filing 2009 tax return forms with H&R Block is $54.95 to file state and federal together. The advantage to using the software is that it will help you prepare an accurate return. As you can imagine, if you need to prepare several years it can add up quickly. The cheapest method is to get forms directly from the IRS.

You can access PDF files of tax forms, instructions and publications all the way back to 1980 on the IRS website (though keep in mind that you will have to contact your state to get state forms). The IRS has electronic forms all the way back to 1998 that you can complete using your computer. However, this method requires you to print and mail in your returns, you cannot eFile them. Though completing your prior year taxes using this method is the most difficult method, it is the most affordable. At the most, you might have to pay for printing, copies and stamps. If you do not have access to a printer, you can call the IRS and order the forms and instructions you need.

Filing prior year taxes is stressful and complicated. You may be nervous about how much you owe or the IRS sending you bills you don't know how you are going to pay. However, no matter how much anxiety you may feel preparing and submitting your prior year tax returns, it is less painful than wage garnishments and liens on your property. You can't hide from the tax man.

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