Tax Returns: If You Haven't Filed in a While FAQ

How long am I liable if I haven't filed tax returns in past years?

At least six years, and possibly forever. While the government has only six years from the date the nonfiled return was due to criminally charge you with failing to file a tax return, there is no time limit for collecting taxes and assessing financial penalties for not filing. It is not until you actually do file a return that the audit time limit -- three years -- and collection time limit -- ten years -- starts to run.

As a practical matter, however, if you haven't heard from the IRS in six years, you don't need to worry too much about taxes owed on a nonfiled return. The IRS usually doesn't go after nonfilers after six years -- unless the IRS begins its investigation before the six years elapsed and you owe a large amount of taxes. After six years, the IRS frequently purges its computer files.

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