What to do if you haven’t filed your 2019 taxes

Good reasons to file your taxes—even if you’re late (or really late)

Even the most organized people trip up occasionally and realize they’ve missed a deadline.

Those of us with the best of intentions might have missed that ominous annual tax return deadline this year. But that doesn’t have to mean gloom or doom is coming your way. Many of us who are deadline-challenged have had to work especially hard to keep up with this year’s fast-changing tax rules and deadlines.

As you might have heard, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Internal Revenue Service did taxpayers a favor by extending the deadline to file from April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020. But now that deadline has come and gone.

If you’re concerned about having missed the July 15 filing deadline—or, worse, you’re sure you missed that due date or past years’ deadlines—there are several positive steps you can take to minimize the pain.

If you haven’t filed your tax return for this year or any others, experts agree—don’t delay.

Michael Rousell, a CPA and manager at Temple, Texas, accounting firm Brockway, Gersbach, Franklin & Niemeier, says people occasionally come to him who haven’t filed taxes, admitting that they don’t know what to do—fearing grave consequences. “I think fear stops people from just getting the return filed,” he says. “The bright side is that if the IRS owes you money, there probably won’t be any penalty for filing late. However, if you wait longer than three years to file, they don’t have to refund your money—it’s like you’ve left cash on the table.”

Make a deal

For taxpayers who owe money on their returns, Rousell stresses the importance of addressing the filing issue quickly. “Go ahead and get your outstanding returns filed. The longer you wait, the more penalties will accrue and interest will not stop adding to what you owe.” By acknowledging you owe money and filing your return, you have the option to make a deal with the IRS. “We work with the IRS every day and can contact them with our tax-practitioners priority hotline that expedites any communications with them.”

Rousell elaborates: “In many instances, we’ve written to the IRS and asked them to abate penalties and interest because of the circumstances surrounding a late return.” He says he uses important buzzwords in his communications that will carry weight with the IRS.

Quick Tip: If you’ve never filed late in the past, the IRS likely will allow you one “get-out-of-jail-free” card—giving you a chance to pay up on a late return without penalty.

A CPA can be an important ally in negotiating the best terms to pay the IRS what you owe over time. “We work with clients to create a payment plan that’s very manageable. Let’s say you owe $5,000. Under a payment plan, you wouldn’t be expected to come up with that all at once out of pocket—we could arrange for you to pay maybe $100 a month, which could be a lot more do-able,” Rousell explains.

Let them know where you are

Now more than ever, it’s critical for the IRS to know how to reach you. The stimulus checks issued this spring due to the CARES Act went first to taxpayers who’d filed their 2019 tax return and had either paid or requested a refund via an online bank account. If there’s more stimulus money to come, your best bet of receiving it is to catch up on any late tax returns.

At the very least, your CPA can show you how to file for an extension of time to send in your return. That way, you’ll have until October 15, 2020, to make a plan and get the tax paperwork filed.

If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask—the experts at Brockway, Gersbach, Franklin & Niemeier know just how to help.