How do I file taxes 2 years late on the cheap?
April 19, 2006 12:49 PM   Subscribe

Tax Filter: I still haven't filed my taxes from 2 years ago. Mainly because I am not sure what the cheapest, easiest way to do it is. Please advise this procastinator! (more inside)

I had a straight 9-to-fiver job for a megacorp and was most definitely owed money from the gub'ment, so I didn't get around to filing till way late in the year. By then I couldn't buy Turbotax, etc. for that year, so I didn't bother.

This year, I didn't make enough money (on record at least) to owe any taxes, but I'd still like to get that check back from 2004.

Are there any free or cheap ways of filing for taxes from 2 years ago? Do any of the standard consumer software products allow for this? Or do I need to see a tax professional?
posted by Parannoyed to Work & Money (10 answers total)
 
and yes, I saw a number of similar questions, but nothing that really answered this question.
posted by Parannoyed at 12:50 PM on April 19, 2006


You could always download the forms from the IRS website and do it the old-fashioned way. If all you had was straight W-2 income, doing your taxes shouldn't be too difficult.
posted by reverendX at 12:55 PM on April 19, 2006


IANATL, but I think you're required to file whether or not you owe money. I wouldn't be surprised if late-filing fees ate up all your refund, and you ended up owing money besides. It's probably worth going to one of the consumer-grade professionals (H&RBlock, Hewitt, etc).
posted by spacewrench at 1:03 PM on April 19, 2006


Here is a list of free-file websites from the IRS. I don't know which of them meet your conditions but it shouldn't be hard to go down them and see. My guess is you will have to file plain old paper forms for the last year and deal with any fines, etc. Then you can file for free this year, especially since you seem to be low income.
posted by jessamyn at 1:10 PM on April 19, 2006


Ya better hurry up, though. I think you only have a couple of years window to file for previous years returns and get your refund. 1-800-829-1040
posted by Pressed Rat at 1:12 PM on April 19, 2006


I wouldn't be surprised if late-filing fees ate up all your refund, and you ended up owing money besides.

The late penalties are determined as a percentage of the money you owe the government. Owe nothing == no penalty. So you're fine in that respect.
posted by smackfu at 1:23 PM on April 19, 2006


You have three years from the filing deadline for a tax year to file if you do not owe money. After that, your refund goes into some governmental black hole, never to be seen again.

As for tax filing products, TurboTax allows you to buy products from previous tax years. I don't know if the other software vendors do, but I'd assume so. I don't know if you can e-file a prior year's return, but the software will help you input everything and print out a nice, tidy tax form for you to mail in.
posted by bedhead at 1:36 PM on April 19, 2006


If you're eligible to use it, 1040EZ lives up to its name. 15-30 minutes to done, easy and free. Requirements from 2003 instructions:
  • Your filing status is single or married filing jointly.
  • You (and your spouse if married filing jointly) were under age 65 and not blind at the end of 2003. If you were born on January 1, 1939, you are considered to be age 65 at the end of 2003.
  • Your taxable income (line 6) is less than $50,000.
  • You do not claim any dependents.
  • You do not claim a deduction for educator expenses, the student loan interest deduction, or the tuition and fees deduction.
  • You do not claim an education credit, the retirement savings contributions credit, or the health coverage tax credit.
  • You had only wages, salaries, tips, taxable scholarship or fellowship grants, unemployment compensation, or Alaska Permanent Fund dividends, and your taxable interest was not over $1,500.
  • You did not receive any advance earned income credit payments.
My understanding is that filing is mandatory whether you're owed $ or not. While you don't get charged penalties for late filing when there's a refund due, no point risking trouble from the IRS when it can easily be avoided. File for both missed years.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 1:44 PM on April 19, 2006


You can not efile a late return, they have to be mailed in (and expect to wait a lot longer than usual for your refund).
Make sure to file your state (if you live in a state with tax) if you're doing a federal. It sends up some major red flags if you don't (even if you're owed a refund).

Also, don't be shocked if you get a Scary Letter. A friend of mine finally sat down and filed four years of taxes at once (three back and the current), and even though he had very little income and got a refund, he was audited. The question: "so, why'd you wait so long to file?"
posted by Kellydamnit at 2:47 PM on April 19, 2006


thanks all, you've been helpful!! I'm gonna get my ass legal again.
posted by Parannoyed at 8:59 PM on April 19, 2006


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