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Don’t pay more in taxes than you have to. Take full advantage of all deductions and credits available. Planning is the key to successfully and legally reducing your tax liability. The author, Juanita Farmer, is the Managing Partner of J.D. Farmer & Associates, LLC, a public accounting firm, located in Germantown. Rely... Read more

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PHOTO | 401kcalculator.org

What to Do if You Haven’t Filed a Tax Return

PHOTO | 401kcalculator.org

PHOTO | 401kcalculator.org

Filing a past due return may not be as difficult as you think.

Taxpayers should file all tax returns that are due, regardless of whether full payment can be made with the return. Depending on an individual’s circumstances, a taxpayer filing late may qualify for a payment plan. It is important, however, to know that full payment of taxes upfront saves you money.

Here’s What to Do When Your Return Is Late

Monday, April 18, was the tax deadline for most taxpayers to file their 2015 tax return. If you didn’t file a tax return or an extension to file but should have, take action now.

First, gather any and all information related to income and deductions for the tax years for which a return is required to be filed, then call the office.

If you’re owed money, then the sooner you file, the sooner you’ll get your refund. If you owe taxes, you should file and pay as soon as you can, which will stop the interest and penalties that you will owe.

If you owe money but can’t pay the IRS in full, you should pay as much as you can when you file your tax return to minimize penalties and interest.

Payment Options – Ways to Make a Payment

There are several different ways to make a payment on your taxes. Payments can be made by credit card, electronic funds transfer, check, money order, cashier’s check, or cash. If you pay your federal taxes using a major credit card or debit card, there is no IRS fee for credit or debit card payments, but the processing companies charge a convenience fee or flat fee.

Payment Options – For Those Who Can’t Pay in Full

Taxpayers unable to pay all taxes due on a tax bill are encouraged to pay as much as possible. By paying as much as possible now, the amount of interest and penalties owed will be less than if you do not pay anything at all. Based on individual circumstances, a taxpayer could qualify for an extension of time to pay, an installment agreement, a temporary delay, or an offer in compromise.

When it comes to paying your tax bill, it is important to review all your options; the interest rate on a loan or credit card may be lower than the combination of penalties and interest imposed by the Internal Revenue Code. You should pay as much as possible before entering into an installment agreement.

For individuals, IRS Direct Pay is a fast and free way to pay directly from your checking or savings account. Taxpayers who need more time to pay can set up either a short-term payment extension or a monthly payment plan. Most people can set up a payment plan using the Online Payment Agreement tool on IRS.gov.

  • A short-term extension gives a taxpayer an additional 60 to 120 days to pay. No fee is charged, but the late-payment penalty plus interest will apply. Generally, taxpayers will pay less in penalties and interest than if the debt were repaid through an installment agreement over a greater period of time.
  • A monthly payment plan or installment agreement gives a taxpayer more time to pay. However, penalties and interest will continue to be charged on the unpaid portion of the debt throughout the duration of the installment agreement/payment plan.

Taxpayers who owe $25,000 or less in combined tax, penalties and interest can apply for and receive immediate notification of approval through an IRS web-based application. Balances over $25,000 require taxpayers to complete a financial statement to determine the monthly payment amount for an installment plan.

A user fee will also be charged if the installment agreement is approved. The fee, normally $120, is reduced to $52 if taxpayers agree to make their monthly payments electronically through electronic funds withdrawal. The fee is $43 for eligible low-and-moderate-income taxpayers.

  • Starting in 2016, individual taxpayers who do not have a bank account or credit card and need to pay their tax bill using cash, are now able to make a payment at one or more than 7,000 7-Eleven stores nationwide. Individuals wishing to take advantage of this payment option should visit the IRS.gov payments page, select the cash option in the other ways you can pay section and follow the instructions.

Penalties for Filing a Late Tax Return

If you are due a refund there is no penalty if you file a late tax return. If you owe tax, and you failed to file and pay on time, you will most likely owe interest and penalties on the tax you pay late. Here are some facts that you should know about penalties for filing a late return:

Two penalties may apply. One penalty is for filing late and one is for paying late. They can add up fast. Interest accrues on top of the penalties.

Penalty for late filing. If you file your 2015 tax return more than 60 days after the due date or extended due date, the minimum penalty is $205 or, if you owe less than $205, 100 percent of the unpaid tax. Otherwise, the penalty can be as much as five percent of your unpaid taxes each month up to a maximum of 25 percent.

Penalty for late payment. The penalty is generally 0.5 percent of your unpaid taxes per month. It can build up to as much as 25 percent of your unpaid taxes.

Combined penalty per month. If both the late filing and late payment penalties apply, the maximum amount charged for the two penalties is 5 percent per month.

Late payment penalty may not apply. If you requested an extension of time to file your income tax return by the tax due date and paid at least 90 percent of the taxes you owe, you may not face a failure-to-pay penalty. However, you must pay the remaining balance by the extended due date. You will owe interest on any taxes you pay after the April 18 due date.

File even if you can’t pay. Filing on time and paying as much as you can keeps your interest and penalties to a minimum. If you can’t pay in full, getting a loan or paying by debit or credit card may be less expensive than owing the IRS. If you do owe the IRS, the sooner you pay your bill the less you will owe.

What Happens If You Don’t File a Past Due Return or Contact the IRS?

It’s important to understand the ramifications of not filing a past due return and the steps that the IRS will take. Taxpayers who continue to not file a required return and fail to respond to IRS requests for a return may be considered for a variety of enforcement actions.

Don’t Wait!

If you haven’t filed a tax return yet, don’t panic. Just make a plan.

Juanita Farmer, CPA

About Juanita Farmer, CPA

Juanita Farmer. CPA is the Managing Partner of J.D. Farmer & Associates, LLC, a Public accounting firm, located in Germantown, Maryland. Ms Farmer has been practicing in the field of accounting and tax for over 27 years.

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