What Happens When You Don’t File Taxes

Learn the danger of not filing taxes.

Few people get excited about filing their income tax return with the Internal Revenue Service each year, but on-time filing is necessary to avoid interest, penalties, liens and levies. The income tax deadline for individuals is April 17, 2018, for the 2017 tax year because April 15 falls on a Sunday and April 16 is Emancipation Day in Washington, D.C. Read on to learn what happens if you don’t file taxes.

You’ll Miss Out on IRS Refunds

Filing a tax return doesn’t necessarily mean that you owe money. In fact, most taxpayers get a refund when they file their income tax returns: For the 2017 filing season, the IRS expects that 70 percent of tax filers will receive a refund. If you don’t file a return, the IRS can’t refund the extra money to you. If you don’t file your tax return for three years after the return’s original due date, you lose your right to claim that money entirely.

Learn: 9 Things You Need to Know Before Paying Your Tax Bill

You’ll Be Subject to a Tax Penalty for Not Filing

Not filing your income tax return can lead to a range of IRS penalties, including:

  • Failure to File: If you fail to file your taxes and you owe money, the IRS charges a late filing penalty of 5 percent of the tax owed per month, or part of the month the return is late, up to 25 percent.
  • Failure to Pay: The IRS also charges a 0.5 percent penalty on the tax owed for each month, or part of month, the payment is late, up to 25 percent. The rate becomes 1 percent if the tax is still unpaid 10 days after the IRS issues a notice of its intent to levy property.
  • Interest: Interest accrues on your unpaid taxes from the date the tax is due based on the federal short-term rate plus 3 percent. Interest compounds daily.

You Could Be Subject to IRS Tax Liens

When the IRS determines that you owe taxes, it will send you a letter stating the amount you owe, known as a Notice and Demand for Payment. If you don’t pay the debt in time, the IRS places a tax lien against all of your property, including your home, car and bank accounts. The tax lien gives the IRS the right to the proceeds of any of your property.

If the IRS has a tax lien on your home, you must make your full tax payment before you can sell or refinance your home. It can take up to 30 days from the time of your tax payment until the IRS releases the lien. If you sell your home, the IRS has the right to the proceeds to pay the back taxes you owe. When the IRS files a Notice of Federal Tax Lien, it becomes a public record and hurts your credit score.

Related: What to Do When You Can’t Pay Your Tax Bill

You Could Be Subject to an IRS Tax Levy

If you don’t pay your taxes after receiving a Notice and Demand for Payment, the IRS will then send you a Final Notice of Intent to Levy and Notice of Your Right to a Hearing at least 30 days in advance of the levy. If you have not resolved the tax debt at that time, the IRS can seize your property, including your house or car, and sell it to pay what you owe, or have your employer pay your wages to the government instead of to you.

Find Out: Do I Need a Tax Attorney?

Excuses for Not Filing Taxes

It’s hard to find a legitimate reason for not filing taxes that the IRS will accept. Here are some common excuses people might use for not filing taxes — and reasons why you shouldn’t use these excuses:

  • I don’t have time to do my taxes: Life can be hectic, but the filing deadline is not until April of the following year, plus you’re also entitled to request a six-month extension to file your taxes. But, this is only an extension for tax filing, not paying what you owe.
  • The IRS will never find out if I don’t file: The IRS receives matching copies of your W-2, 1099s and other forms that document your income from the various entities that pay you. If your employer doesn’t report your wages, the IRS will question the employer’s tax return if it claims deductions for wages paid to you.
  • I can’t pay my taxes: If you can’t pay your entire tax bill, reach out to the IRS. Payment plans are available that can minimize interest and penalties on your income tax return.
  • I didn’t receive tax forms: You should receive the tax forms you need to file your return by the end of January. If you do not receive them, contact your employer or financial institution to make sure it has your correct address. If that doesn’t work, call the IRS at 800-829-1040 after Feb. 23 for assistance. You will need your employer’s address and phone number, your dates of employment and approximate earnings. You are still responsible for estimating what you owe and filing on time. If you need to make changes, you can always file an amended tax return.

Don’t Miss: 8 Reasons You Could Get Audited

Get Help With Your Income Tax Return

Although taxes can be confusing, it’s important that you file your return on time. If you need help filing or paying, the IRS offers several free tax help options for low-income taxpayers, including help to file taxes online. The IRS can also set up an IRS payment plan to help you avoid owing more than you already do.