I am filing taxes for the first time in 5 years. What can I do to avoid mega-penalties?
January 25, 2012 7:03 PM   Subscribe

I am filing taxes for the first time in 5 years. What can I do to avoid mega-penalties?

So I contacted the IRS and got all my paperwork sent to me so that I can finally take care of filing my last 5 years taxes.

I am not expecting to get anything back in the way of rebates, although the IRS guy said that from looking over my files it looks like I wont really end up having to owe much.

What are some things I can do to ensure that happens?

• Single male, 37 years old
• Never married
• Dont own a home or car
• Not military
• No kids
• Made around $44-48 for all those years
• Had taxes withheld from my paychecks all those years

I dont really have much in the way of deductions either.
Basically I just dont want to end up in debt.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You'll barely owe anything and you won't have to take on debt. Once you file, they'll help you set up a payment plan if for some reason you didn't have enough withheld from your paychecks or you can apply for one yourself.

There really isn't anything you can do to reduce tax owed for those years for such a simple situation.
posted by michaelh at 7:14 PM on January 25, 2012

There's not much you can do except just do it. You're not a Trump, so there's not much leeway in what you file. On the other hand, you're not a Trump, so you've hardly been depriving the IRS of big bags of money either.

Use a tax preparer with audit insurance, expect to take a small hit on penalties, *pay it*, and stay current in the future. If you owe more than you can write a check on, you'll be able to set up a payment plan. We have two (well, one now, the first one is paid off) and they are essentially effortless. But you may very well end up breaking even, if (as with most single people) your withholding has been a tiny bit too much.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:19 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you had taxes withheld on all your pay, I would think if anything they owe you money.

Also don't forget to do your state returns! And don't be scared of the IRS- I'm not sure if it's improved or if it's just a "big government" bugaboo, but they actually have some of the best, most helpful customer service I have come across. If you do owe they will hook you up with a payment plan no problem.
posted by drjimmy11 at 7:28 PM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

"[The IRS] actually have some of the best, most helpful customer service I have come across."

This has been my experience as well.
posted by bz at 7:36 PM on January 25, 2012

Nthing the IRS's great customer service. They are really nice, super helpful, very understanding, and they must have one of the most difficult jobs ever. I can still hear one of them telling me "Keep your chin up!" Just take thorough notes during phone calls. The IRS rep will start the call with their ID number; make sure you take it down and have them repeat if necessary.

If you are owed a refund for any year in which you failed to file, you will not face a penalty. (Given what you wrote above, I expect this would be the case.) If you owe them, you will have to pay a penalty for each year and interest on the amount you owe. If you set up a payment plan zero it out as soon as you can because the interest is pretty bad. But don't do anything you can't keep up with.

And then stay current forever!
posted by jgirl at 7:53 PM on January 25, 2012

Also agree that IRS have best, most helpful customer service. I was kind of expecting people to be mean, but they weren't.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 2:20 AM on January 26, 2012

I just did the exact same thing. The IRS was awesome. As long as you don't owe anything there is no penalty. I took all my W2 paperwork the IRS mailed me, went to the local service center first thing in the morning, and a great rep sat with me, went through all my years, suggested what we were looking at, gave me all the forms needed, and even gave me hints at filing an amended return for the one year I did file and got wrong. I should have talked to them long ago, the IRS is not so bad if you actually look like you're trying to fix your mistakes.
posted by pupdog at 6:37 AM on January 26, 2012

I missed a year once and hadn't taken care of it by the time the next April rolled around. When I filed my taxes in the second year, I was due quite a big refund. I agonized over this. I wasn't sure they'd give it to me since I owed them from the year before. Or, what if I gave them account info for direct deposit and instead of giving me the refund, they actually took money out of the account?

Turns out it was a non-issue. They sent me the refund without question, and continued to send me letters about the amount I owed. Wasn't a big deal.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:43 AM on January 26, 2012

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