What Happens If I Don’t File My Taxes for 3 Years?

“Back in 2010, I had a rough year. My Dad died, work was nuts – it just wasn’t a good time,” Glenn , who lives in Southborough, MA, shook his head. “Did I do everything I was supposed to? No.  I didn’t file my income tax that year. Was I intentionally doing something wrong? No – but the fact I didn’t file in 2010 prevented me from filing in 2011 or 2012. What’s going to happen to me?”

Unfiled Tax Returns: Your Questions Answered

Not filing a tax return on time is one of the most common tax problems.  The IRS estimates that 10 million people fail to file their taxes in any given year: if you have unfiled tax returns, you’re not alone.

“I thought the IRS was going to catch up with me right away,” Glenn said. “I expected a knock on my door way back in May 2010. But nothing happened. Now I’m not sure if I slipped through the cracks or if the IRS is going to come after me tomorrow. It’s very stressful.”

Having unfiled tax returns is like walking across a minefield – without any minesweeping equipment! You never know when the whole situation is going to blow up in your face. The truth is that it’s very difficult to predict exactly when the IRS is going to come after you. The IRS’ enforcement capabilities have increased with advances in technology: they’re pursuing unfiled returns much faster than was previously the case. If you haven’t filed your taxes, you should know it’s only a matter of time until you’ll hear from the IRS.

Turn the Situation Around: Get Help Now

Choose an experienced tax problem solver to handle your unfiled tax return situation. It’s always better to file your tax returns before the IRS contacts you!

That way you’ll have an accurate understanding of what your financial situation is. Working with an experienced MA tax professional, you may discover that you owe less taxes than you thought – or that you’re actually entitled to a tax refund! It happens more often than you might think.

Being proactive about your unfiled tax returns buys you time to act strategically. Having more time to find deductions, gather bank statements, and handle all of the other paperwork associated with filing late tax returns is always advantageous to the taxpayer.

Finally, having your MA tax problem solver handle your unfiled tax returns helps you avoid criminal prosecution.  “I really didn’t want to go to jail for criminal failure to file,” Glenn said. “I’m just starting to get my life turned around and back on the right track! Going to jail is not part of my plan.”

While criminal prosecution against taxpayers who fail to file is relatively rare, it’s important to know that IRS policy is generally not to pursue action against taxpayers who voluntarily file late tax returns.  Avoid expensive fines and penalties, as well as the stress and anxiety that comes from living with unpaid tax returns, by getting help now. It’s never too late to file a tax return!

Fixing Your Tax Problems to Repair Your Credit: What You Need To Know

“They say love makes the world go round, but that’s not true,” Sal M., who lives in Spencer, MA, said. “It’s money – or more correctly, credit! – that matters. If you don’t have good credit, you can’t do anything in this world. You can’t buy a house, you can’t start a business, you can’t go to school – I can’t even get a car that runs halfway decent because my credit’s all screwed up!”

Tax Liens Can Hurt Your Credit

Many people don’t realize that their tax problems can hurt their credit. When you owe money to the IRS or MA DOR (or both!), and you don’t pay your tax debt, you can wind up with tax liens. Tax liens are public record, which means anyone can find out about them. All of the credit rating agencies use tax lien information against you when determining your credit score.

A good credit score is, as Sal discovered, essential to the way we live our lives today. Even the US Government seems to have figured that out. That’s why there are special incentive programs in place to encourage delinquent taxpayers to resolve their tax issues and repair their credit.

Don’t Try To Fix Your Tax Problems On Your Own!

Working with a skilled, experienced firm that specializes in solving tax problems gives you the widest range of options when it comes to having your tax liens released or withdrawn. The IRS and MA DOR are not in the business of advising tax payers how to best solve their tax problems and restore their credit – they’re focused on collecting the maximum amount they can from you.

You May Qualify for a Fresh Start to Fix Your Credit

The Fresh Start Initiative allows delinquent tax payers who meet specific qualifications to take steps to repair their credit. If you owe the IRS less than $25,000 and can comply with a direct debit payment plan, after you’ve made 3 payments, you can request a lien withdrawal from the IRS.

This is only one of the ways you may qualify for the Fresh Start Initiative. Your experienced tax problem solver will fill you in on other available options to obtain a lien withdrawal. All tax lien withdrawals have a very positive impact on your credit rating. Be aware that you’re required to remain in full compliance with the tax laws going forward, and it’s an opportunity that’s only available once.

Is the Fresh Start Initiative right for you? The best way to get an answer to that question is to consult with an experienced tax professional. Schedule your free, no-obligation consultation today to discover how you can fix your credit and get your life back on track!

All IRS Payment Agreements Are Not Equal

By Matthew J. Previte CPA MST
www.taxproblemsrus.com
July 7, 2011

If you owe back taxes to the IRS, you have undoubtedly wondered how on earth you’re going to get a mountain of back IRS taxes off your back so you won’t have to live in fear anymore. Living with IRS tax problems is stressful and can cause many problems in your life. One of these IRS tax problems is having an IRS tax levy placed on your wages or bank accounts which leaves you with little to no money to live on. An IRS tax lien can also be filed against you in the public record (usually the county recorder or registry of deeds) which not only lets the world know about your IRS tax problems but severely damages your credit rating by a good 100 points or more, leaving you unable to get a loan. So what can you do to resolve your IRS tax problems?

Although Offer In Compromise is advertised heavily on late night TV, it is rarely an option for most people with back IRS tax debts. Roughly 95% of delinquent taxpayers with IRS tax debts do not qualify for the IRS Offer In Compromise program. Unfortunately, these late night TV hucksters tout the OIC as the magical cure-all for your IRS tax debt woes. There is an old saying, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And so it is with the Offer In Compromise program. Although my tax resolution firm has filed many Offers In Compromise over the last 16 years, most of our clients who owe large back taxes to the IRS do not qualify. Simply put, they have too much equity in assets (bank accounts, houses, retirement accounts, etc) and/or cash flow (what’s left over after what the IRS allows for basic living expenses) to qualify. So that begs the question, what are my options?

While bankruptcy can sometimes be a good option, we will leave that discussion for another article (see archives for February 2011). Short of running out the statute of limitations on collection, which is generally ten years, or hitting the lottery or inheriting a boatload of money and paying off the IRS tax debts in full, the only option left is an installment agreement. However, not all installment agreements are equal.

The IRS has two different types of installment agreements to pay off back taxes. The first type is a Full Pay Installment Agreement. In this type of IRS installment agreement, the monthly payments are sufficient to pay off the back taxes (plus any penalties and interest that accrues) until it is paid off in full. With this type of IRS installment agreement, your payments will full pay the back IRS tax debts, as well as all penalties and interest accruing on the debt, within the statute of limitations on collection. The statute of limitations on collection is generally 10 years. However, there are numerous actions that can extend the time the IRS has to pursue collection action (liens, levies, seizures, etc). We will leave that to another article to discuss.

The second type of IRS installment agreement is called a Partial Pay Installment Agreement. Under this type of IRS installment agreement, the monthly payment is insufficient to pay off the back taxes plus accruing penalties and interest by the collection statute expiration date. What does this mean in plain English? Well, it means that you make payments until the statute of limitations on collection (in IRS speak the “CSED”) runs out. So if at the collection statute expiration date there is $10,000 of unpaid back tax debt, it expires to zero and you do not owe it anymore. Nice huh? There is one catch however. As part of the terms of the Partial Pay Installment Agreement, the IRS will review your financial condition every two years to see whether or not your financial condition (i.e. your ability to pay more) has improved. If it has, they will require a higher payment if your financial condition shows you can afford to pay more towards the back tax debt. The downside of this type of installment agreement is it is possible that in the future your financial condition improves and the new monthly payment required becomes sufficient to full pay the back taxes, penalties, and interest by the collection statute expiration date. In other words, it’s possible to start out with a Partial Pay Installment Agreement and end up with a Full Pay Installment Agreement. The positive aspect of a Partial Pay Installment Agreement is that if your financial condition does not improve enough or at all, you could still end up paying less than the full amount owed and end up with a large balance of unpaid back taxes expiring to zero at the collection statute expiration date.

With all IRS Installment Payment Agreements, your financial condition is reviewed via a Form 433-A and/or 433-B depending on whether your tax issues are personal or business tax debts. Individuals and sole proprietorships use the Form 433-A while corporations, partnerships, and LLCs use a Form 433-B. If you owe personal taxes and have income on your personal tax return from a flow through entity (S corporation, partnership, or LLC treated as an S corporation or partnership), you may have to submit both the Form 433-A and the Form 433-B to get your installment payment agreement approved.

There are strategies to minimize your monthly payment amount but that will be discussed in a future article. Also, just because the IRS initially denies your IRS installment payment agreement does not mean you should give up. Many initially rejected IRS installment payment agreements were later accepted upon filing an Appeal to the IRS Appeals Division. Persistence and perseverance are key to obtaining a fair IRS installment agreement that you can live with.

As the Federal Trade Commission and state Attorney Generals crack down on scam tax relief firms, where can consumers turn to for help with their IRS and state tax problems?

Just last month, the Federal Trade Commission shut down American Tax Relief, a Beverly Hills, California-based company that guaranteed it could settle tax debts for individuals for a fraction of what they owed. The state of California recently filed suit against Roni Deutch, AKA the “Tax Lady”, for a deceptive ad campaign that offers very little proof that the firm’s clients are getting any real-world benefit and overstates claims of winning against the IRS. Suit was also brought against J.K. Harris of Charleston, South Carolina by the state of Massachusetts in conjunction with the attorney generals from 17 other states for false and deceptive trade practices and nonperformance of work. A $1.5 million judgment against J.K. Harris was awarded to the state of Massachusetts and the other 17 states. Are these three isolated cases? Can you believe any firm that says they can help settle your tax debt for less than what you owe?

“These three firms are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to companies claiming to be tax debt relief specialists who say they can settle your tax debt for pennies on the dollar,” said Matthew Previte, CPA, of Matthew J. Previte, CPA, PC and TaxProblemsRUs.com. “The sad part is that tax representation firms like these create a genuine distrust of any company who can genuinely help delinquent taxpayers with tax debt owed to the IRS or their state DOR.”

Previte, whose Natick, Mass.-based tax representation firm has specialized exclusively in representing individuals and businesses with IRS and state tax problems since 1997, says the real problem with companies like American Tax Relief, Roni Deutch, and J.K. Harris is that they make promises to clients that they can’t possibly deliver on. Says Previte, “The simple fact remains that approximately 95 percent or more of delinquent taxpayers do not qualify to settle their tax debts through an Offer in Compromise.”

So, what options do Americans who owe the IRS or their state DORs have besides representing themselves? Previte suggests there are plenty of reputable tax representation firms out there but consumers must do their due diligence before selecting a firm, such as:

Avoid firms that guarantee a settlement – There are four main factors involved in settling your tax debts through an Offer in Compromise. The four factors are: (1) your current financial condition, (2) the tax law and IRS procedure, (3) your cooperation in providing the requested information needed to settle your case, and (4) the competency of the tax representation firm you have chosen. A tax representation firm that guarantees settlement is a major red flag since the first three of these factors are completely outside of their control and can change while in the process of trying to settle your tax debts causing an eligible Offer candidate to become ineligible. Meaning, you could start off as a great Offer candidate but later become ineligible due to changes in your financial condition, tax law and IRS procedures, or your failure to cooperate.
Use a locally based tax representation firm staffed by licensed tax professionals (CPAs, Enrolled Agents (EAs), or tax attorneys) that practices exclusively in resolving IRS and state tax problems – Negotiating with the IRS or state DOR is a unique skill set unto itself. CPAs, EAs, and tax attorneys, although they perform various tax services such as tax return preparation and tax planning, are rarely well versed in the workings of the IRS or state DORs. It is rare if they handle one tax controversy case a year. You want to work with a licensed tax professional whose firm focuses exclusively in representing individuals and business in trouble with the IRS or state DORs, with a physical, brick-and-mortar location that’s within driving distance to you so you can schedule a face-to-face meeting before engaging them to represent you.
Ask for references – If you don’t know anything about a particular tax representation firm, ask for references. Most will be more than happy to provide contact information for satisfied clients or conventional tax professionals (CPAs, EAs, tax attorneys) who have referred them clients. You can also research a prospective tax representation firm by going to your state’s society of CPAs web site, state bar association web site, or state society of Enrolled Agents web site. The overwhelming majority of licensed tax professionals working at any reputable tax firm will be members of one of these societies. Also, do a search with your local Better Business Bureau and state licensing board (CPAs, tax attorneys) or IRS Office of Professional Responsibility (EAs) as well as a general Google search. You would be amazed at what you can discover about your prospective tax representative online.
Work with a smaller firm – When it comes to larger vs. smaller firms, you are most likely to get personal attention when working with a smaller firm. Larger firms tend to assign your case to junior staff and there’s a possibility that a senior staff member might not even review your case. For many larger firms, the focus can be more on selling and collecting retainers than getting actual results. With smaller firms like Matthew J. Previte, CPA PC, the principal reviews every case.

“It makes perfect sense that somebody carrying a huge tax debt would turn to one of these tax representation firms for help with their IRS or state tax problems. What you don’t want is an additional problem, like wasting precious dollars on a tax representation firm that makes promises it can’t keep,” said Previte. “By doing a little research before handing over a retainer fee, you prevent your hole from getting any deeper and can feel rest assured you’re taking a positive step forward in resolving your IRS and state tax problems.”

For more information on Matthew J. Previte CPA PC, please visit www.TaxProblemsRUs.com. To schedule a free confidential consultation, call 877-259-8200.