Filing taxes is an essential civic duty that every eligible individual and business owner must fulfill. However, life’s challenges sometimes lead people to neglect this responsibility, leaving them wondering how to rectify the situation when they haven’t filed taxes in 10 years. In this article, we’ll explore the reasons behind non-filing, the consequences you might face, and step-by-step guidance on how to tackle this daunting task.

Why Don’t People File Their Taxes?


Procrastination is a common reason people skip filing their taxes. The process can seem overwhelming, leading many to put it off year after year.

Lack of Knowledge

Some individuals may lack the necessary knowledge to file their taxes correctly. Tax laws are complex and can be challenging to navigate without guidance.

Financial Hardship

Financial difficulties can make filing taxes seem like a low priority. When struggling to make ends meet, individuals may neglect their tax obligations.

Personal Problems

Life can throw unexpected challenges our way, such as illness, divorce, or the loss of a loved one. These personal issues can make it difficult to focus on tax matters.

After a Few Years, They Don’t Know Where to Start

The longer someone goes without filing, the more daunting it can become. They may feel overwhelmed by the backlog and unsure of how to begin.

Poor Recordkeeping or No Recordkeeping at All

Accurate recordkeeping is crucial for filing taxes. Some individuals may not have kept adequate records, making the process of filing seem impossible.

Consequences of Not Filing Taxes

Neglecting your tax obligations can result in serious consequences. Under Code 7201, willful failure to file a tax return is considered a criminal offense. Here are the potential consequences for different non-filing durations:

If You Haven’t Filed Taxes in 2 Years

If you haven’t filed taxes for two years, you may face penalties and interest on the amount owed. The longer you wait, the more you’ll owe.

If You Haven’t Filed Taxes in 3 Years

After three years of non-filing, the IRS may file a Substitute for Return (SFR) on your behalf, which can lead to higher taxes owed, as it doesn’t consider deductions or credits you might be eligible for.

If You Haven’t Filed Taxes in 5 Years

At this point, the IRS may start levying your bank accounts or garnishing your wages to collect the unpaid taxes.

If You Haven’t Filed Taxes in 10 Years

The consequences become even more severe, including potential criminal charges, hefty fines, and even imprisonment.

What Happens if You Don’t File Taxes for Your Business?

If you’re a business owner, not filing business taxes can have dire consequences. Your business assets may be at risk, and you could face personal liability for unpaid business taxes.

Negotiate the Tax Bill

If you find yourself facing a substantial tax bill, consider negotiating with the IRS. They may be willing to work out a payment plan or offer a settlement if you demonstrate a genuine commitment to resolving your tax debt.

How to File Back Taxes

Filing back taxes is a complex process, but it’s crucial to get back on track with your tax obligations. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you:

Gather the Necessary Documents

Before you can file your back taxes, you’ll need to gather essential documents:

  • W-2s and 1099s: Collect all income-related forms.
  • Expense Records: Gather records of deductions and credits.
  • Previous Tax Returns: If available, locate past tax returns.

File Your Tax Returns

Once you have the necessary documents, follow these steps:

  • Select the Appropriate Forms: Choose the correct tax forms for the years you need to file.
  • Fill Out the Forms: Accurately complete the forms, reporting your income, deductions, and credits.
  • Submit Your Returns: Mail your completed forms to the IRS for each respective year.

What Is a Deficiency Assessment?

A deficiency assessment is a notice from the IRS that informs you of any discrepancies or additional taxes owed after reviewing your tax return. It’s essential to address any deficiency assessments promptly to avoid further penalties.

Complete and Mail Your Return

Ensure that you complete all necessary forms and schedules for each year you missed. Mail them to the IRS at the address specified for your location.

Consider Professional Help

If the process seems overwhelming or you’re unsure about your ability to handle it on your own, consider seeking professional assistance:

  • Tax Professionals: Enlist the help of a tax accountant or tax attorney with experience in filing back taxes.
  • Tax Resolution Services: Explore tax resolution firms that specialize in negotiating with the IRS on your behalf.

Address Any Outstanding Tax Debts

If you owe taxes that you can’t pay in full, consider these options:

  • Installment Agreements: Work out a payment plan with the IRS.
  • Offer in Compromise: Negotiate a reduced settlement amount with the IRS if you can’t pay the full debt.
  • Temporary Delay: Request a temporary delay in collection efforts if you’re facing extreme financial hardship.


Filing back taxes after a decade of non-compliance may seem like a daunting task, but it’s essential to address this issue head-on. The longer you wait, the more severe the consequences can be. Remember that you’re not alone in this journey; professional help is available to guide you through the process and help you regain your financial footing. Don’t let the past hold you back – take the necessary steps to resolve your tax situation and move forward with peace of mind.