Filing taxes is a fundamental civic responsibility that every citizen must undertake. Failure to file taxes, however, can have devastating consequences that could inflict long-lasting financial and legal repercussions. According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the number of taxpayers who failed to file their taxes in 2020 increased by 5.2% compared to the previous year, with almost 11 million taxpayers who failed to file their taxes on time. This worrying trend highlights the pressing need for taxpayers to understand the consequences of failing to file their taxes and to take the necessary steps to rectify any outstanding tax issues.
Failing to file taxes can lead to financial and legal troubles, including accruing interest and penalties on unpaid taxes, wage garnishment, property seizure, and criminal charges. The IRS can also impose significant penalties, including a fine of up to 5% of the unpaid monthly taxes, for those who fail to file their taxes or file their taxes late. Furthermore, individuals who intentionally fail to file taxes or evade paying taxes can face severe legal consequences, such as imprisonment and hefty fines.
Let us discuss these consequences in more detail.
Penalties and Interest
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) imposes a failure-to-file penalty of 5% of the unpaid taxes for each month that the tax return is late, up to a maximum of 25% of the unpaid taxes. Additionally, filing late tax returns leads to a failure-to-pay penalty of 0.5% of the unpaid monthly taxes, up to 25%, with interest on the penalties.
Therefore, to stay updated with tax deadlines and create a tax-paying plan, you must avail business tax consulting services to understand where your business stands and avoid a late fee. A tax attorney can guide you about the financial considerations and legal requirements according to your business operations.
Employing professional services will minimize your chances of penalties and interest and help your business get back on track. Failure to address outstanding tax liabilities can lead to severe consequences, such as wage garnishment, property seizure, and even legal action. Therefore, it is better to take action sooner rather than later.
Substitute for Return
If taxpayers fail to file their tax return, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can file a Substitute Return (SFR). An SFR is a tax return that the IRS prepares for a taxpayer based on the information they have on file, such as W-2 and 1099 forms.
However, an SFR is not in the best interest of the taxpayer. The IRS may not have all the information necessary to calculate the taxpayer’s tax liability accurately, which can lead to an incorrect assessment of taxes owed. Additionally, an SFR does not consider any deductions or credits the taxpayer may be eligible for, which could result in a higher tax liability.
Furthermore, an SFR does not stop the accrual of penalties and interest on outstanding tax liabilities. The penalties and interest associated with unpaid taxes on an SFR can be more severe than on a taxpayer-filed tax return. For example, the failure-to-file penalty for an SFR can be up to 25% of the unpaid taxes, compared to a maximum of 5% for a late-filed return.
Taxpayers must file their tax returns on time and pay any outstanding tax liabilities as soon as possible to avoid the negative consequences of SFR. Seeking the guidance of a qualified tax professional or accountant can be beneficial in navigating complex tax laws and regulations and ensuring compliance with tax obligations.
By filing a tax return, taxpayers can ensure the assessment of their tax liability and any deductions or credits that they are eligible for. It can lower tax liability and reduce the risk of accruing penalties and interest on unpaid taxes.
Tax Evasion Charges
Tax evasion is a serious offense when a taxpayer intentionally fails to report or underreports their income, makes false statements on their tax return, or fails to pay the taxes owed. If caught, the taxpayer can face severe legal consequences, including criminal charges, imprisonment, and hefty fines.
The IRS has the authority to conduct civil and criminal investigations into suspected tax evasion. If the IRS determines a taxpayer engaged in tax evasion, they may refer the case to the Department of Justice for prosecution. Tax evasion is a federal crime and can result in a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to $250,000 for individuals or up to $500,000 for corporations.
Furthermore, tax evasion charges can have long-lasting consequences beyond immediate legal penalties. A conviction for tax evasion can significantly impact a taxpayer’s personal and professional reputation, making it difficult to secure employment or obtain loans in the future. Additionally, a conviction for tax evasion can result in the loss of professional licenses or certifications, such as a CPA or attorney license.
Seeking the guidance of a qualified tax professional or accountant can be beneficial in navigating complex tax laws and regulations and ensuring compliance with tax obligations.
Forfeit of Tax Refund
Taxpayers who fail to file their tax returns on time may be subject to a forfeiture of their tax refund. It means the taxpayer may lose their right to a refund if they do not file their tax return within a certain period. The IRS can use the taxpayer’s refund to pay any outstanding tax liabilities, penalties, or interest owed.
The timeframe for refund forfeiture varies depending on the taxpayer’s specific circumstances. For example, if a taxpayer is due a refund for the tax year but fails to file a tax return, they have three years from the original due date of the tax return to claim their refund. If the taxpayer fails to file within three years, they forfeit their right to the refund.
Moreover, you can also face penalties and interest on any outstanding tax liabilities if you fail to file your taxes. These penalties and interest can accrue quickly, resulting in a significant financial burden for the taxpayer.
To avoid the forfeiture of their refund, taxpayers should file their tax returns on time and pay any outstanding tax liabilities as soon as possible. Even if a taxpayer cannot pay their full tax liability, they should still file their tax return to avoid the accrual of penalties and interest on unpaid taxes.
Furthermore, seeking the guidance of a qualified tax professional or accountant can be beneficial in navigating complex tax laws and regulations and ensuring compliance with tax obligations. A tax professional can assist in accurately calculating tax liability, identifying eligible deductions and credits, and filing tax returns on time.
Failing to file tax returns or pay taxes owed can lead to many negative consequences, from penalties and interest to SFR, tax evasion charges, and the forfeiture of refunds. Taxpayers must take their tax obligations seriously and comply with tax laws and regulations to avoid these consequences.
Seeking the guidance of a qualified tax professional or accountant can be beneficial in navigating complex tax laws and regulations and ensuring compliance with tax obligations. A tax professional can assist in accurately calculating tax liability, identifying eligible deductions and credits, and filing tax returns on time, thereby mitigating the risk of facing negative consequences.