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  • Robert Nath

Non-Filing of Tax Returns

Updated: Mar 14, 2022


What are the penalties for not filing a federal income tax return?

The criminal penalty is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of one year in jail and a $25,000 fine for each year of nonfiling, plus costs of prosecution. Sometimes the IRS will punish multiple nonfiling years as a felony (tax evasion), punishable by 5 years in jail and a $100,000 fine (plus prosecution costs) for each year. Each unfiled year is a separate count in a criminal case. The statute of limitations is six years from the due date of each unfiled return. The most common civil penalties for nonfiling are: (1) late-filing penalty, late payment penalty, and estimated tax penalty, or (2) civil fraud penalty. There is no statute of limitations for these civil penalties if you failed to file a return.

I have heard of people who go 10 years or more, and the IRS never catches up with them. How can that happen?

Sometimes that can in fact occur, and other times it’s more “hype” than truth. Yes, there are cases of such flagrant abuse, but more often than not the IRS will catch up with nonfilers, and of course, the longer the non-filing, typically the worse off you are.


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