Suppose I just don’t file tax returns?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Who Must File an Income Tax Return?

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has published information about who must file income tax returns and the consequences for failure to file tax returns. On its website, the IRS states that the requirement to file tax returns is not voluntary and is clearly set out in the Internal Revenue Code. While some tax protesters insist that the system is voluntary, the IRS points out that it is only voluntary to the extent that individuals are allowed to fill out the forms by themselves to determine the tax and are not required to have the government determine the taxes for them. According to the IRS, any citizen who has income in excess of a statutorily determined amount is required to file income tax returns.

What Happens If You Fail to File a Tax Return?

Failure to file tax returns is a crime punishable by up to one year in prison for each year a return is not filed and a fine of up to $25,000. Under the appropriate statute of limitations, the IRS has up to six years to prosecute you for the crime and it normally does not pursue prosecution after the statute of limitations time period has expired. If you did file a return but did not pay any taxes due, you will not be charged with a crime but will be assessed penalties and interest with respect to the total amount due.

To pursue non-filers, the IRS will launch a Taxpayer Delinquency Investigation. Initially, the IRS will contact the non-filer in one of four ways: by phone, letter, formal notice and a visit from an IRS agent. If the agency cannot make contact with you in any of these ways, it will set a deadline for you to file a return through written notice and again have an agent attempt to visit you. If you are ultimately contacted by a special agent of the IRS regarding failure to file an income tax return, you can be sure that you are the subject of a criminal investigation. 

Getting Legal Help

If you have questions or concerns about your tax return, or if you did not file a tax return, it is strongly recommended that you contact a tax attorney.

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