General Question

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

Is it illegal to not file taxes?

Asked by ItalianPrincess1217 (10086 points ) January 20th, 2012 from iPhone

If someone worked most of the year and would have been getting money back from federal and state but did not file at all, is that illegal. Are there penalties for this? If it’s been a few years can that person still file? If they don’t have their w2’s how would they obtain them or get copies?

This is for NY state if that matters.

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13 Answers

chyna's avatar

Yes, everyone has to file and if you are expecting a refund, why wouldn’t you file? You get your W-2’s from the HR department of the company you worked for.

JLeslie's avatar

As well as I can remember the IRS does not care if you don’t file a tax return if they owe you. Maybe it is under a certain amount? But, not filing can be a red flag that they might go over your financials and audit you. Who needs that? If the earnings were very low, just a few thousand, they probably would not bother. As far as the state of NY, I have no idea. My state requires filing a tax return if interest income is over a certain amount. But, withholdings are not taken out, so either you owe or owe nothing, but they never owe me.

jrpowell's avatar

I didn’t bother filing when I was going to get 35 bucks back 10 years ago. Nothing ever happened.

But if you owe they will notice. Ask MC Hammer.

JLeslie's avatar

I think you can file up to three years after when you were supposed to file. You can always call and ask.

john65pennington's avatar

Everyone must file a tax return. Its the law.

marinelife's avatar

Yes, it is illegal not to file a tax return.

SavoirFaire's avatar

No, @john65pennington, it’s not. There are various exceptions, such as being below the filing requirement. The IRS has a useful questionnaire here to determine whether or not you should file.

DrBill's avatar

you can get copies of the w-2’s at your local IRS office, you must file within 3 years of the due date, or the IRS will do them for you and you loose all of your deductions, so you will most likely have to pay the new tax + interest + non filing penalties = a lot more than if you file on your own.

There are no penalties if you did not make enough to owe anything.

Jeruba's avatar

You can apply for an extension if you need more time to file.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

You don’t have to file a tax return if you don’t make a certain amount of money, and you don’t owe taxes.

Zaku's avatar

(Disclaimer: In my answer below, I am talking about Federal IRS, not New York state tax, which I know nothing about.)

(As for what some others wrote: What!? NO! The people who say it’s illegal not to file are WRONG, even the police officer.)

Tax FRAUD and EVASION are illegal, but simply not filing a form is not, especially if you do not owe any tax.

However, it may be foolish not to, as eventually it may become slightly less easy to get the refund in the future.

And, if the IRS does not believe you, or decides to audit you at random, and you didn’t file, and somehow your employer filed the wrong information or something, and then goes out of business and can’t be found, it might eventually end up being a problem.

You can file years after the fact. You can also correct past filings. You can also file for an extension.

If you lack your W-2’s, you can ask your employer for copies. You can also talk to the IRS and ask them, as the IRS should have received copies from the employer.

CWOTUS's avatar

When the IRS matches up W2s and 1099s from former employers and other payers and determines that you have in fact had taxable income for prior years – and no return to account for that (and it may often take years for them to discover the fact), then they will first contact you at your last known address via certified mail with an estimate of your tax liability and a requirement that you pay or file by a certain date. That tax liability will be based on the simplest possible filing, which will certainly not take advantage of deductions that you may be entitled to. So it will probably be “worst possible case”, and it will include penalties for late filing and interest based on that elevated amount over all the time that you have failed to pay.

When you fail to pay or file by the date in the first letter, then they will escalate the demand until it turns into a tax lien. (By now you will almost certainly be making arrangements to file the missing return(s), if not pay the full amount, or make arrangements to begin a payment plan.)

@SavoirFaire and @Zaku are correct. “Not filing” is not a problem at all if you have no liability. (Many retired people never file, in fact, because they simply don’t meet the income criteria.) “Filing late” can cost you money, but if you work with the IRS and make bona fide attempts to meet your obligations, there is almost never a criminal problem. But it can cost more and be a lot more trouble.

gravity's avatar

The requirements will vary depending on 3 Major Factors: Your Age, Filing Status, and Type of Income You Receive. For example if you’re single and under 65 years of age, and earned at gross income of least 9,350 then you need to file. And if you were 65 years or older and had a gross income of at least 10,750 you need to file.

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