Do you have to file taxes if you ask for an extension?
April 16, 2007 7:40 PM   Subscribe

Tax Filter: If you are not required to file your taxes, and you file an extension, do you have to file your taxes? Other tax questions inside

I'm helping my friend with his taxes. He doesn't have to file but is waiting on his w2 to be resent to him to see if he should. If he files for an extension does he still have the option to not file?

He didn't file in 2005, can he still file even though he didn't submit an extension?

Other than the hope and lifetime learning credits I was told there was a deduction you could make if you were a full-time student. I'm not talking about deducting qualifying school expenses on line 35, but something else.
posted by stuffedcrust to Work & Money (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You have to file for the extension.
You have to file, even if you don't owe.
File for the extension - it takes maybe 15 minutes tops for most people. Then when you have all the info file the return.
Compliance is important, even if they owe you.
posted by caddis at 7:56 PM on April 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

and yes, even after you file for the extension you still have to file the whole tax return by the August deadline.

As for last year's taxes, I think it would be better to file than wait for them to find you. Maybe they never will, but who looks more sympathetic, the hider or the repenter?
posted by caddis at 8:00 PM on April 16, 2007

You technically are supposed to file even if you don't owe tax. However, there's no penalty if you don't, and if they figure you don't owe tax (based on the W-2 and 1099s that they have received for you) then they likely won't contact you, either.
posted by kindall at 8:06 PM on April 16, 2007

Actually no, the first three replies are not technically correct. Some people (contrary to what others have written above) are not required to file. This is straight out of this year's 1040 instructions. Among those not required to file:

1) Single people under 65 earning less than $8450
2) Single people over 65 earning less than $9700
3) Married filing jointly under 65 earning less than $16900

There are several other categories, but the bottom line is that not everyone earning money must file.

If you file an extension but don't need to file, you don't have to file - an extension doesn't obligate you to do so per se.

I don't know of any other student-related deductions.

If your friend *needs* to file a 2005 return he can. Or 2004 for that matter. He could still file a 2003 if he does it by tomorrow!
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 8:22 PM on April 16, 2007

Dee's got it. You don't have to file if your income is below a certain level. It sounds from your post like you knew that already, but I figured I'd back you up. If you're not certain whether your friend has to file, you might want to check out the IRS's online questionnaire here. Click on the "yes" and "no" links until it gives you a specific answer.

Also, there is no penalty for late filing if the IRS owes you money. Sez here:
There is no penalty for failure to file a tax return if a refund is due. But by waiting too long to file, you can lose your refund. In order to receive a refund, the return must be filed within 3 years of the due date.
In other words, if your friend is confident he won't owe the IRS money, he can safely wait for the W2 to arrive — at least as long as he expects it by April 2010.

Now, if your friend's income is above the level at which he's required to file and he's afraid he might owe the IRS money, then he needs to start worrying about an extension.

And finally — yes, of course he should file for 2005. But even if he hasn't filed for 2005 yet, he's still allowed to file a 2006 return. Each year's return is processed separately, and anyway, they want you to file — they'll never tell you you're not allowed to.

I'm a tax preparer. I'm not a lawyer or an accountant, and if one of either shows up you should listen to them instead.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:26 PM on April 16, 2007

Also, if you have your last pay stub and don't want to wait for the W2, the IRS has a form you can fill out in lieu of a W2, wherein you state that you have tried to get a W2 from your employer without success. Fill out the form, provide the info that *would* be on the W2 and file away!

Unfortunately, I don't know the form number.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 8:37 PM on April 16, 2007

If you're a full-time student, it means you can be claimed as a dependent for longer (as long as you'r under 24 instead of 19 (plus other requirements, of course)). Could that be what you're thinking of? Or is it a state thing?

The only education-related deductions I've heard of are the one you mentioned, interest on student loans, and the education-as-a-business-expense one (which doesn't depend on being a full-time student, but has other limitations).
posted by Many bubbles at 8:56 PM on April 16, 2007

I have always told people that many Americans don't have to file. Many of these people have just assumed I don't know what I'm talking about. The same goes for the people - who are getting refunds(!) - lining up at the post office to meet the "deadline." There is no penalty for not filing by the "deadline," if you are getting a refund. If you OWE, you'll be penalized for the late return plus interest.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 10:56 PM on April 16, 2007

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