Are You One of the 7M Non-Filers?

Are you among  an estimated 7 million ‘non-filers’ in the USA? If you are, I’ll share bad news and good news. But first let’s look at the term non-filer:

Definition of a Non-Filer

According to Farlex Financial Dictionary (2009, accessed June 21, 2020),

“A non-filer is a person or corporation who does not file a tax return by the required date. In general, a person who has filed taxes once must continue to do so for the rest of his/her life (or existence, if a corporation).”

Let’s break that down a bit:

  • You’re a non-filer if you didn’t file in 2018 but did in 2017
  • You’re still  OK if you haven’t filed for 2019; the filing date was moved to July 15 2020 due to coronavirus
  • You’re a non-filer if you haven’t filed federal taxes in ten years (or 2-9 years for that matter) but did for some prior year(s), as required.
  • You’re a non-filer if you’ve never ever filed taxes (and were not exempt from filing).

As you might imagine, the longer it’s been, the more complicated it can be to get caught up, and the heavier the potential consequences in terms of interest, fees and penalties (25% of the original amount owed). If you have not filed because you know you’ll have tax debt you can’t pay, avoiding these penalties is your top priority.

I can guess the question many want answered: “What’s  my chance of staying  a non-filer forever—of flying under the radar ’til the statute of limitations runs out and I’m home free?”

Here’s the reality check, some bad news followed by good news:

The Bad News About Being a Non-Filer

The bad news (it may be news to you) is that if you are owed a refund you must claim it timely (within 3 years) or lose it. Read more about this in my post about the non-filer who believes all is good as the IRS owes him.

The other bad news  for non-filers is that data being collected about us in this digital age is being  scrutinized by IRS like never before. At one time it was easier to ‘get lost in the crowd’ and not file federal tax returns. But the IRS now has programs to identify and collect from people who are not filing and should be. The IRS is using public and private databases such as driver license records. By cross-referencing databases they can determine who is likely to be earning money that would require them to file.

The Good News for Non-Filers

What many others want to know of course, “Is there a legal way out that won’t bankrupt me or put me in money misery for ever?”

The first piece of good news for non-filers is that regardless of how many years have passed since you filed, to ‘catch up’ you only need to file the last six years. This fact could positively influence your timing. The second piece of good news is that the IRS wants a fresh start with non-filer citizens. It wants to kiss and make up, and get paid something. The steps to get square with the IRS are not complex, but choosing the best option for  your financial situation can be. You might also need help devising and carrying out a strategy to pay the least amount. That’s where I come in as your tax advisor and representative. If you’re a non-filer and have decided to explore getting square, I recommend you take me up on a free, confidential phone consult.

I’m CPA Jim Payne, your tax advisor and representative. I look after your interests. I look forward to serving you, saving you money, and releasing you from much of the stress and anxiety of dealing with the IRS or State of Florida tax authorities. Please text or call me at 352-317-5692 or email me for your free phone consult.

“I Avoid IRS Hassles By Not Filing!”

Non-filers — folks who habitually decline to file Federal tax returns— fall into two broad categories:

  1. Those who have significant income withheld by an employer, and figure they don’t have to file because the IRS will probably owe them.
  2. Those that hope to fly under the radar for their entire lives.

The first group is actually kind of common. After all, maybe they will get around to getting caught up next month or next year. No big hurry, the IRS owes them. Right?

Wrong: The IRS seems to ignore them. In actuality, IRS computers have compiled all the W-2s and 1099s and calculated that the government is getting a free loan! But it can get even better for the Government! The statute of limitations will run 3 years after the due date of the return and the taxpayers will no longer be able to claim their refund.

Yea, free money for the government.

What about the second group, those guys that are flying so low that nary a ping hits the IRS monitors? If you live in a lean-to in the wilderness as a hunter-gather all your life, that will work. But for the rest of us, forget it. The IRS is getting better every year at searching through public databases looking for information on people making money and then checking their database of returns filed. It’s just not hard to see this software continuing to improve its ability to crawl through websites and matching information found with returns filed.

Bottom line – Getting by as a non-filer for your entire life is just not likely to work. Filing returns can be stressful for some, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the problems of dealing with IRS Collections people knocking on your door.

If you or someone you know has received a Notice of Intent to Levy or some other federal or state tax issue, please feel free to contact me at either (352) 317-5692 or email jim@taxrepgainesville.com.

How (Not!) to Make a Gift of your Refund to the IRS

The majority of taxpayers get a refund after filing their 1040. Late filing by these people is not normally a problem since all the penalties are based on the amount of tax due. But, filing too late can be costly.

When you file a 1040 requesting a refund you can think of it as having two different functions.

  • Function 1 is your report to the IRS to self-assess your total tax liability.
  • Function 2 is to file an administrative claim for a refund on the overpayment.

If you file your tax return more than 3 years after its original due date, you will lose the right to claim the excess. This is because the claim is only good for tax payments made within the three years prior to the claim itself.

This recently happened to some taxpayers in Wisconsin who filed their 1040 more than three years after the due date and lost their right to claim a $7,000 plus refund. The Golden Rule here is “FILE THE BLOODY RETURN WHEN IT’S DUE”. These things simply do not age well.

If you or someone you know has received a Notice of Intent to Levy or some other federal or state tax issue, please feel free to contact me at either (352) 317-5692 or email jim@taxrepgainesville.com.