Late Filing, Payment Penalties

You may face tax late filing and/or late tax payment penalties if you file after the deadline and owe taxes. However, you will not face the late filing penalty if you file something (Return or Extension) even if you can't pay (Taxes) anything by Tax Day. Even if you owe taxes and can't by the tax deadline, e-file a tax extension, a state tax extension, or a tax return as late filing penalties are generally higher than late tax payment penalties. Use the Penalty Tax Calculator to estimate potential IRS penalties.

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Penalty for Filing a Tax Return Late

Wondering whether or not you will face federal penalties for not filing your tax return by Tax Day? Review the information below:

  • When penalties apply: If you owe taxes and do not file a tax return or extension on time. You will incur a late filing penalty and/or late tax payment penalties including IRS interest. Thus, file either a tax return or tax extension by Tax Day - even if you can't pay any taxes due by Tax Day - as that would eliminate the late filing penalty which is generally greater than the late tax payment penalty. An extension only extends to tax deadline until October 17, 2022; it does not extend the tax payment due date. You may face penalties if you file your return or tax extension on time, but do not pay the taxes you owe by the tax deadline.
  • When penalties generally don't apply: If you are expecting a tax refund and do not file a tax return on time. As long as you file your return within three years, you will get the full amount of your refund unless you owe taxes from a previous year or other debt and the IRS or state offsets it.

Remember that the penalties for not filing a tax return or a tax extension are higher than not paying taxes owed. The penalty for not filing on time is 4.5-5% per month of the tax amount owed, plus interest, versus a late payment penalty of 0.5% per month, plus interest. Therefore, it's better to e-file your tax return or a tax extension and pay as much taxes as you can afford than not filing at all.

If you are only late to file, meaning you have paid your due tax, then the maximum late filing penalty is applied at 5%. If you are late to file and pay, then your late filing penalty is reduced by the late payment penalty, resulting in a penalty of 4.5%. If you are only late to pay, meaning you have filed a tax extension or return but did not pay, then you would only face a penalty of 0.5%. These penalties will increase over time, up to a maximum of 25% of your unpaid taxes.

What Is the Highest IRS Penalty?

On average, you will face a 5% penalty when you do not file a return and owe taxes. This will accrue each month that it is late, up to five months. If you wait until 60 or more days after the due date, then the minimum penalty is either $435 or 100% of the tax that is unpaid, whichever is less. If you file, but do not pay, then only the 0.5% penalty will be assessed, which will increase per month until 25% is reached. See IRS notices you may receive if you do not pay taxes or do not file when you are supposed to.

Instead of owing taxes, balance your withholding with your employer so you do not owe anything at the end of the year. Taxpert.com offers four W-4 planning tools to help balance your withholding so you can keep more of your money during the year.

Prepare and e-file something even if you can't pay anything. Why? Late filing penalties are generally higher than late payment penalties. Prepare and e-file your 2021 Tax Return now. Click below to use the Taxpert.com PENALTYuctor tool and calculate any penalties or interest you might owe the IRS due to a missed deadline or late payment.

Start the IRS Penalty Tool Now

The following sections below have details on IRS late filing and payment penalties. They also have due dates to file tax returns in order to claim tax refunds and what to do if you cannot pay the taxes you owe.

Penalty Myth
Penalty Truth

"e-Filing or filing a tax extension postpones my tax payments and avoids any IRS penalties."

Even if you get an extension, you still have to pay at least 90% (80% for eligible 2021 Returns) of your balance due to avoid a late tax payment penalty.

"The penalty for not filing a tax return or an extension by Tax Day is small. Not paying is more expensive."

Not e-filing or filing a tax return or an extension is ten times more expensive than not paying your taxes on time! (5% vs. 0.5%)

"If it has been three years since the tax return due date, you don't have to file a tax return for that year anymore."

After three years, you can no longer claim a tax refund for that year, but you may still file a tax return. However, if you owe taxes, you'll need to file your return as soon as possible as well as owe back taxes and penalties (late filing penalties for each month your return is not filed).

Can You Still File a Tax Return and Claim a Refund/Pay Taxes Owed?

Review the chart below for information on when and how to claim your tax refund. If you owe taxes, file your tax return and submit your tax payment as soon as possible to reduce late filing and payment fees and penalties. You can only claim a tax refund you are owed for three years following the original due date. Once this date has passed, the money goes to the U.S. Treasury. Don't become part of a statistic! File your previous year return as soon as possible. Regardless of if you miss your refund, you should consider filing a previous year return even if you will not get a tax refund.

e-Filing is no longer available for past-due returns; use the links in the table to find and fill in all the forms for your previous year tax return. Here at Taxpert.com, prepare your current year return each year that way you do not have to worry about handling complicated tax forms, making math calculations, and mailing in all your forms. Prepare and e-file your returns on Taxpert.com and avoid all this hassle and confusion.

Tax Year
Tax Return Deadline
Claim Refund/File By
Instructions for Claiming Refund
2021
April 18, 2022
April 18, 2025

e-file from Jan. - Oct. 17, 2022

Prepare, e-file your 2021 Tax Return now.

2020
May 17, 2021
April 15, 2024

e-file no longer available.

Prepare, file your 2020 Tax Return on paper.

2019
July 15, 2020
April 15, 2023

e-file no longer available.

Prepare, file your 2019 Tax Return on paper.

2018
April 15, 2019
Expired

You can no longer claim a 2017 Tax Refund.

Prepare, file your 2018 Tax Return on paper.

2017
April 18, 2018
Expired

You can no longer claim a 2017 Tax Refund.

Prepare, file your 2017 Tax Return on paper.

All refunds from 2018 and prior year returns have since expired. If you were owed a refund for these years, it has gone to the federal government. If you owed taxes in these years, file and pay as soon as possible.

What Is the Penalty for Filing a Tax Return Late?

If you file your 2021 Tax Return after the deadline and you did not get an extension, then you will be assessed a penalty of 5% of your balance due per month or part of a month a return is filed late (for up to five months). The failure-to-file penalty amount will be reduced by the amount you owe for failure-to-pay penalty for any month that both penalties apply. If you file more than 60 days late, your minimum failure-to-file penalty will be 100% of your unpaid taxes or $435 (whichever is less).

For example, if you owe $100 in taxes for your 2021 Tax Return, your additional failure-to-file penalty would be $4.50 per month (reduced from $5.00 due to concurrent failure-to-pay penalty). However, if you filed your return more than 60 days late, your minimum failure-to-file penalty is the lesser of 100% of the tax you owe ($100) or $435.

What Is the Penalty for Paying Taxes Owed Late?

If you do not pay the full amount you owe by the tax deadline, even if you file an extension, you will be assessed a penalty of 0.5% of your balance due per month or part of a month after the deadline. The amount of your failure-to-pay penalty will not exceed 25% of your back taxes.

If you do not pay your full balance due, you will also owe interest on the unpaid amount. The interest rate is set quarterly by the federal government. The current 2021 interest rate for underpayment of taxes is 3%.

Will I Owe Late Filing and Payment Penalties?

Generally, you will owe penalties and interest if you owe taxes and you file and/or pay late. To find out if you may face IRS penalties for late filing and/or late payment, find the scenario below that applies to you:

1. You did NOT e-file or file a federal tax return for Tax Year 2021 by April 18, 2022, but you expect a refund.

In general, you will not face penalties, but you must file a return to claim your tax refund. You will have 3 years from the original due date or until April 18, 2025 to file a 2021 Tax Return and claim your tax refund. After April 18, 2025, you can no longer claim your 2021 refund and the money goes to the U.S. Treasury.

What Next? Prepare and e-file a tax return through Taxpert.com as soon as possible and no later than October 15, 2022. After the October deadline, you will need to manually prepare and file your 2021 Tax Return via mail.

2. You DID e-file or file a federal tax return on time and you owe unpaid taxes.

You will likely have to pay the failure-to-pay penalty of 0.5% of your balance due for each month (or part of a month) in which your taxes go unpaid past the deadline. The maximum amount of this penalty is 25% of your unpaid taxes.

What Next? Pay some or all of your taxes as soon as possible. If you cannot pay the full amount at one time, you may be able to enter into an installment agreement with the IRS.

3. You did NOT e-file or file a federal tax return or an extension on time and you owe unpaid taxes.

You will likely face two types of penalties: one for not filing a tax return or extension on time and one for not paying your taxes on time.

The failure-to-file penalty is 5% of your balance due for every month (or part of a month) in which your taxes go unpaid. The amount you owe for this penalty will be reduced by the amount you owe for the failure-to-pay penalty. The maximum amount of this penalty is 25% of your unpaid taxes. If you file your tax return more than 60 days late, the minimum failure-to-file penalty will be 100% of your unpaid taxes or $435, whichever is smaller.

The failure-to-pay penalty is 0.5% of your balance due for each month (or part of a month) in which your taxes remain unpaid. This penalty will not be more than 25% of your unpaid taxes.

If both penalties apply to you during the same month, the failure-to-file penalty is reduced by 0.5% per month. The 25% cap applies to both penalties together.

What Next? Prepare and e-file a tax return through Taxpert.com as soon as possible and no later than October 15, 2022. After the October deadline, you will need to prepare and file your 2021 Return via mail. Also, pay some or all of your taxes as soon as possible. If you cannot pay the full amount now, you may be able to enter into a payment arrangement with the IRS.

4. You DID e-file or file an IRS accepted extension on time and you owe taxes, but you have not paid them.

If you pay at least 90% of your balance due when you get your federal extension, you will not be penalized for late payment. Otherwise, you should expect to have to pay a failure-to-pay penalty of 0.5% of your balance due for each month (or part of a month) in which your taxes go unpaid. The maximum for this penalty is 25% of your unpaid taxes.

You must e-file or file your 2021 Tax Return by the October deadline or you will begin to face the failure-to-file penalty, which is 5% of your balance due for every month (or part of a month) in which your taxes go unpaid. The amount you owe for this penalty will be reduced by the amount you owe for the failure-to-pay penalty, if you owe both of them in any month. The amount of the failure-to-file penalty will not exceed 25% of your balance due, but if you file your tax return more than 60 days after the extended deadline, the minimum failure-to-file penalty will be 100% of your unpaid taxes or $435, whichever is less.

What Next? Prepare and e-file a 2021 Tax Return on Taxpert.com by the October deadline and pay as much as you can as soon as possible. If you cannot pay the full balance now, you may be able to enter into an IRS installment tax payment plan.

5. You DID e-file or file a tax return or tax extension, but it was rejected and you did NOT file again AND you owe unpaid taxes.

This situation is the same as having filed no tax return at all and you will likely face failure-to-file penalties and failure-to-pay penalties as described above.

6. You have a reasonable cause for not filing your tax return or paying your taxes owed on time.

You generally will not have to pay a failure-to-file or a failure-to-pay penalty. There are a few scenarios where a taxpayer may receive an extension of time to file:

  • Active duty military stationed outside of the U.S (2 months)
  • U.S. Citizen currently abroad (2 months)
  • Located in a federally declared disaster area (Check for time-to-file dates).

7. You DID e-file or file an IRS accepted extension on time and you expect a tax refund or owe $0 in taxes.

Whether or not you used Taxpert.com to prepare and e-file your 2021 Taxes, your return was accepted and you either owe $0 in taxes or are expecting a refund to come through direct deposit. In this case, you will not face any penalties unless the IRS offsets your refund for any reason. Monitor the status of your refund for update on this.

What If You Cannot Pay the Taxes or Penalties You Owe?

If you cannot pay at least 90% of the taxes you owe by the original tax deadline, you will likely owe penalties. How can you pay your tax bill when the balance due keeps adding up? Pay your due tax to the best of your financial ability and, at the very least, file your return or extension as soon as possible.

Solution 1: Find Alternate Methods to Pay

For example, if you use a credit card or a loan to pay your tax bill, the interest may be less than the IRS penalties you would face. Options to pay the taxes you owe now.

Solution 2: Apply For a Payment Agreement with the IRS

There are three options to arrange a payment plan with the IRS:

  1. Get a short-term extension of time to pay,
  2. Enter into an installment plan, OR
  3. Make an offer-in-compromise.

More information about installment plans and other IRS payment options.