Part of your Mid-Year Tax Checkup should include seeing whether you have any overdue tax returns and making sure you file them as soon as possible. If you’re not sure whether you are required to file, you can use the IRS’s Interactive Tax Assistant Do I Need to File a Tax Return? to help figure it out.
Even if you don’t have to file because you didn’t earn enough money, you may want to file to avoid missing out on a refund. This could apply if you had federal income tax withheld from your pay, made estimated tax payments for the year, had any of your overpayment from last year applied to this year’s estimated tax, or qualify to claim tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit. The only way to get your refund is to file a tax return.
There is still time to claim your Child Tax Credit. In addition, if you didn’t qualify for a third economic impact payment or received less than the full amount to which you were entitled, you may be eligible to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit. You must file a 2021 tax return to claim either credit.
Filing past due tax returns is important for reasons other than just the potential of losing out on a credit or refund, including:
- Protecting your Social Security benefits;
- Avoiding issues obtaining loans; and
- Preventing the IRS from filing a substitute return for you. This return might not give you credit for deductions and exemptions you may be entitled to receive (which may result in you owing).
Be aware of the consequences for not filing a tax return when you are required to do so.
Find the records you need
Create and/or sign into your individual IRS online account to view, access and print:
- Key data from your most recently filed tax return, including your adjusted gross income, as well as transcripts;
- Information about your Economic Impact Payments and Advance Child Tax Credit payments, including the amount you received; and
- Digital copies of certain notices from the IRS.
Additional ways to find records specifically related to:
Wage and Income information – Complete Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return, and check the box on line 8. You can also contact your employer for a copy of your Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement.
Economic Impact Payments/Recovery Rebate Credit – Review Letter 6475, Your 2021 Economic Impact Payment(s), that the IRS issued to you earlier this year. Spouses filing a joint return for 2021 need to know the payment amounts for both spouses to claim this credit.
Advance Child Tax Credit payments – Review Letter 6419, 2021 Total Advance Child Tax Credit (AdvCTC) Payments, that the IRS issued to you earlier this year.
Earned Income Tax Credit – You can request an account transcript online using Get Transcript. You can use the EITC Assistant to see if you’re eligible, calculate how much money you may qualify for, and find answers to questions about this credit.
Help Preparing your Past-Due Return
Tax form(s) – Get IRS online tax forms and instructions to file your past-due return, or order them by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Preparation assistance – If you need return preparation assistance, you may be eligible for assistance from a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC), or get free tax help from volunteers.
Note: LITCs can prepare returns if the due date for the return has already passed.
How to File
The IRS encourages you to file electronically through a tax professional, IRS Free File, free tax return preparation sites, or commercial tax return preparation software.
You can also send your return via Mail or private delivery service, but be aware that it may take 6 months or more to process. For service delay details, see Status of Operations. If you must file a paper tax return, consider sending it by certified mail, with a return receipt. This will be your proof of the date you mailed your tax return and when the IRS received it.
Did you file an extension for 2021?
If you requested an extension for 2021, the filing deadline is coming soon. This year, an extension gives you until October 17 to file your return. But you don’t have to wait; file electronically and if you are due a refund, choose direct deposit once you have all your information together.
Note: IRS employees continue working hard to process tax returns and address inventory issues but are urging people to file electronically to avoid processing delays.
Do you need to correct a previously filed return?
If you file your individual tax return and then realize you made a mistake, you can amend your tax return. Usually this involves filing Form 1040-X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, to report changes to your income, deductions or credits. You may also be able to make certain changes to your filing status.
Do you owe taxes you can’t pay?
If you owe taxes and your tax return is overdue, you should file your tax return now to avoid further penalties for not filing by the deadline. Again, you should file electronically if at all possible due to the IRS backlog in processing paper returns. See Status of Operations.
If you can’t pay the full amount, pay what you can now to reduce the amount of penalties and interest that will continue to accrue, and review the IRS payment options, including an offer in compromise. Each option has different requirements and fees, so please review each one carefully. Depending on your economic circumstances, you may qualify to be placed in Currently Not Collectible status.