What happens if I cannot file my income tax return on time?

If you can’t file your federal income tax return by April 15th, or you can’t pay taxes that you owe, there are some simple measures that you can take in order to avoid some really bad consequences. First, you can get an automatic 4-month extension until August 15th by filing IRS Form 4868 – Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, so long as you file it with the IRS by April 15th. Next, if August 15th is coming up and you still need more time, you can request an additional 4-month extension, which the IRS will grant if you have a good reason. A second extension of time, if granted, will give you until October 15th to file your return. 
Keep in mind, however, that getting an extension of time in order to file your taxes does not get you an extension of time to pay taxes that you owe. If you know that you owe taxes, you should send in as much of the taxes that you owe as you can, along with your extension request, to the IRS by April 15th. Otherwise, if you don’t pay at least 90% of the taxes that you owe, the IRS will charge you interest and penalties on the owed taxes, which range from 1/2 % per month to 1% per month of the amount that you owe.
Additionally, if you don’t pay the bulk of the taxes that you owe, and don’t request a filing extension by April 15th, the penalties and interest are even higher, ranging from 5% per month to 25% per month of the amount of tax that you owe, plus interest. As you can see, it is much worse to simply not file your tax return on time or request an extension than to file your return and perhaps be unable to pay all of the taxes that you owe. 
Federal taxes are one of those bills that you should make a priority in paying. If you don’t file an income tax return, the government has six years to file criminal charges against you for failing to file. Once you file your tax return, however, there is no time limit for the IRS to collect back taxes, penalties, and interest from you. Plus, you can’t get rid of back taxes through bankruptcy proceedings, so that won’t solve your problems, either. However, if you owe a large amount of back taxes, it would be wise for you to contact an attorney who specializes in tax matters for assistance in dealing with the IRS, and perhaps negotiating some sort of plan with the IRS in order to pay your back taxes.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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