A Discussion Regarding Tax Filing Penalties
The failure-to-file penalty is assessed if there is unpaid tax and the taxpayer fails to file a tax return or request an extension by the April due date. This penalty is usually 5% of tax for the year that’s not paid by the original return due date. The penalty is charged for each month or part of a month that a tax return is late. But, if the return is more than 60 days late, there is a minimum penalty, either $210 or 100 percent of the unpaid tax, whichever is less.
Special filing deadline rules
Special deadlines affect penalty and interest calculations for those who qualify, such as members of the military serving in combat zones, taxpayers living outside the U.S., and those living in declared disaster areas.
Taxpayers in a combat zone may be able to further extend the filing deadline and can find details in Publication 3, Armed Forces’ Tax Guide (PDF). For taxpayers living and working outside the U.S. and Puerto Rico, or on military duty, the deadline to file is June 17. They also have until June 17 to file Form 4868 for an extension until October 15. An extension of time to file is not an extension of time to pay any tax due.
When the president declares a major disaster, the IRS can postpone certain deadlines for taxpayers who reside or have a business in the impacted area. If an affected taxpayer receives a late filing or late payment penalty notice from the IRS, and they filed or paid by the deadline stated in the IRS news release of postponement of the deadlines for filing and/or paying, they should call the telephone number on the notice to see if IRS can abate the penalty due to the disaster.
Penalty relief may be available
Taxpayers who have filed and paid on time and have not been assessed any penalties for the past three years often qualify to have the penalty abated. See the First-Time Penalty Abatement page on IRS.gov. A taxpayer who does not qualify for the first-time penalty relief may still qualify for penalty relief if their failure to file or pay on time was due to reasonable cause and not due to willful neglect. Taxpayers should read the penalty notice and follow its instructions to request this relief.
In addition to penalties, interest will be charged on any tax not paid by the regular April due date. For individual taxpayers it is the federal short-term interest rate plus 3 percentage points, compounded daily. Interest stops accruing as soon as the tax is paid in full. Interest cannot be abated.
Many taxpayers delay filing because they are unable to pay what they owe. Often, these taxpayers qualify for one of the payment options available from the IRS. Taxpayers can use their online account to view the amount they owe, make payments and apply for an online payment agreement. These include:
Installment Agreement — Individuals who owe $50,000 or less in combined tax, penalties and interest can request a payment plan using the IRS’s Online Payment Agreement application. Those who have a balance under $100,000 may also qualify for a short-term agreement. An installment agreement, or payment plan can usually be set up in minutes. Requesters receive immediate notification of approval. Visit Payment Plans, Installment Agreements at IRS.gov for more information.
Offer in Compromise — Struggling taxpayers may qualify to settle their tax bill for less than the full amount owed by submitting an offer in compromise. To help determine eligibility, use the Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier tool.
Taxpayers who owe tax for 2020 can avoid having the same problem for 2021 by increasing the amount of tax withheld from their paychecks. For help determining the right amount to withhold, use the Withholding Calculator on IRS.gov
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