Americans have never liked paying taxes. One of the defining moments of the American Revolution was the Boston Tea Party, a defiant stand against the King’s tea tax. One of the early calls for the country was, “No taxation without representation!”

But, in the year 2021, we have our representation. So, however inconvenient it may be, US citizens and residents must pay taxes.

However, sometimes people get backlogged on their taxes. If you miss your tax payments, eventually you’ll have to file back taxes.

Filing back taxes is essential for your financial security. Remember, if you go long enough without paying the IRS, they can have you imprisoned.

If you’re not sure how to file back taxes correctly, don’t worry! In this guide, we’ll provide you with six tips for filing back taxes. Let’s jump right in!

1. How Far Back Can You File Taxes?

When people have to file back taxes, they often ask this question. The answer comes in an IRS policy statement. In Policy Statement 5-133, Delinquent Returns – Enforcement of Filing Requirements, the IRS states that taxpayers must file six years of back tax returns.

The policy also states that any deviation from that rule must be approved by the IRS. However, on occasion, the IRS may require tax returns from more than six years ago.

When would they ask for this, you ask? Typically, this request stems from one of three factors:

• There’s a potentially large tax bill on older returns

• Business returns are involved

• There’s a revenue officer on the case

Once you know how far back you have to go for your taxes, you can use some strategies to prepare. The rest of these tips will deal with those methods.

2. Ask for a Transcript When Preparing Your Back Taxes

When preparing your tax returns, your return must match the IRS’ records for your income. However, if you’re trying to gather several years’ worth of information, it’s easy to make a mistake.

To avoid this threat, request your wage and income transcripts from the IRS. Then, trace your income history from your records.

When you do, ensure your returns report all the items on your transcripts. If the information doesn’t match, the IRS may question the accuracy of your return. This outcome is one it’s best to avoid.

If you’re nervous about whether you can provide the most accurate information, there is a workaround. Instead of preparing for taxes alone, you could outsource your tax preparation to an external service. You can learn more at

3. Learn If the IRS Filed a Return For You

If your tax returns remain late for a long enough period, the IRS often begins the substitute for return (SFR) process. Typically, this starts three years after the due date of your return.

When this occurs, you still need to file back taxes to the IRS. However, because they already have information on hand, the agency will closely examine your return.

As they go, they’ll want to ensure your information aligns with what they already have on hand. Since the IRS scrutinizes this data so closely, it often takes the IRS several months to process the new return.

4. Set Up a Payment Plan if You Can’t Afford Taxes

Sometimes, people fall on hard times for long stretches. If you haven’t paid your taxes and still cannot afford what you owe, you have some options.

In cases like these, it’s best to contact the IRS and arrange a payment plan. Like many organizations, the IRS offers payment plans to help make your debt more manageable. Several types of plans exist, but one of the most common is a long-term payment plan.

You may hear this plan referred to as an installment plan. This plan allows you to pay in several ways, including through Direct Debit or through manual monthly payments.

What happens if you don’t establish a payment plan? Eventually, the IRS will believe that you simply aren’t paying your taxes. At that point, they’ll begin the next step of IRS enforcement.

That extra step is a collection. If you can’t pay the money when the collectors come, they may seek legal action next.

5. Request Penalty Abatement if You Qualify

In many cases, you can ask the IRS not to charge you with failure to file taxes. Alternatively, you can pay penalties on balance-due returns. If you qualify, use first-time abatement for the first year.

However, not everybody filing back taxes will qualify for this. If you discover you can’t apply for this, start gathering reasonable cause arguments. These arguments are essentially defenses for your late filing and payments.

If these arguments are recognized, they can bring you relief from some penalties. Once again, outsourcing your tax preparation can help you in this.

6. Don’t Ignore the IRS

When faced with debt, several people believe that if they can ignore their creditor long enough, they’ll eventually go away. People often take the same approach with the IRS. Don’t be one of those people.

Owing money can be scary, especially if it’s to the government. But, as you can see, there are ways to negotiate this debt.

You can use payment plans to pay in more accessible ways. You can ask the government not to apply penalties to you. You may even be able to hire a tax pro to assist you.

So, don’t let fear make your situation worse. When you need to pay taxes, face the situation head-on. If you plan and strategize, you can pay off your taxes and get back to living your life.

Start Preparing Your Back Taxes Today

With these tips, you can start preparing for your back taxes efficiently. The sooner you start, the less you’ll have to stress later. So, don’t hesitate; start preparing your returns today!

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