What to Expect If You Don't Pay Your Taxes
People fail to file tax returns for a variety of reasons - personal or business problems, feelings of hopelessness or fear due to an extended period of nonfiling, anti-government sentiments, or beliefs that the penalty will not outweigh the expense and trouble of filing. Because the United States tax system is based on taxpayers willingly honoring their obligations, the IRS does what it can to encourage nonfilers to voluntarily come forward after a period of not paying taxes. Part of this strategy includes taking a voluntary disclosure into consideration when determining whether to criminally prosecute, negotiating payment installment plans, and reducing tax liability for certain needy individuals.
Whatever your reason for not filing, you may want to consider the following information:
Knowing failure to file a return can be a criminal violation of the law.
It is not the policy of the IRS to prosecute ordinary people who make simple mistakes or whose returns were lost in the mail.
The IRS, although it reserves the right to do so, will probably not recommend prosecution for failing to pay your taxes so long as you voluntarily come forward before they contact you and arrange to pay what you owe.
If you cooperate, you are less likely to be prosecuted.
If you derive your income from illegal sources, it is more likely that the IRS will recommend prosecution.
The more blatantly fraudulent your behavior has been, the more likely the IRS is to prosecute you. For example, you would likely be prosecuted for failing to file returns year after year, despite repeated contacts by the IRS.
In order to convict you of a tax crime, the IRS does not have to prove the exact amount you owe.
The IRS has a general policy of not enforcing the filing of returns older than six years.
The IRS can collect taxes, interest, and penalties for all of the taxes you have owed over the years.
The IRS has programs in place to identify nonfilers.
The filing of a return starts the audit and collection time limits.
If you do owe taxes, you can probably work out an installment plan to pay off your debt.
You may be able to negotiate a settlement with the IRS, depending on your ability to pay, that will significantly diminish your overall tax debt.
The IRS may owe you money.
If you go to a tax professional, you will probably not have to deal directly with the IRS.
A tax professional should be able to obtain your past W-2s, 1099s, and 1098s from the IRS if you no longer have them.
The IRS may accept reasonable estimates of charitable contributions, medical expenses, and other deductions.
Depending on how complicated your situation and how good your record keeping is, the entire process of clearing up your nonfiling status could take as little as a few weeks.