The IRS is, to many Americans, the face of bureaucratic incompetence. They’re slow. They take our money. They screw up. But did you also know that they understand? It sounds crazy, right? The IRS having feelings? Compassion? The ability to think? But for millions of Americans, mostly those with past due tax, the stereotype of the IRS is what’s keeping them from discovering this compassion–and receiving a refund while doing so!
Sounds too goo to be true, right? Well it is. Here’s why:
The IRS, all things being equal, would love if they never had to give you money. That’s always been true. But they would also love nothing more than to never have you pay them money either. And that’s what you should want as well. See, when either you or the government owes money (on past tax or current tax), it means something went wrong. It means a form was mischecked or money taken when it shouldn’t have been. A refund check can be a great way to boost your savings account, but it usually means the government accidentally depleted it too. Whoops!
So, really, as strange as it sounds, the IRS wants you to file your past due tax because they want to make sure no one screwed up. Now, you’re probably worried because you suspect that maybe that person most likely to screw up is you. But not so! The majority of American’s who have failed to file past tax returns are actually owed money. As shocking as it might sound, the government can screw up a lot. And since the majority of Americans who fail to file are in lower tax brackets, they’re actually more likely to get a refund than anyone else.
Good news, huh?
But it gets better. The IRS understands that you probably had a good reason you didn’t file. That a lot of times it’s because of illness or death or a status change. That your emotional well-being (or financial well-being) came before figuring out your taxes that year. The IRS isn’t going to hold your hand and give you a hug, but they’re going to understand. They think you should file those past tax forms anyway, because if you provide a reason (and you probably have a good one), they can reconsider your case. They can knock out any of those past tax fines or at least reduce them.
The IRS isn’t ever going to win Government Organization of the year. And they still do a lot of things wrong. But one thing they do right is past tax and past due taxes. They get you have stuff that isn’t 1099 forms or W-2’s and they understand why taxes might not be your focus. They get that you don’t make a lot of money and want to give some to you. They want to avoid scary fines. But they can’t do any of that until you file. So if fines and auditing are what is keeping you from removing stress and a getting a refund, stop worrying today. File those old returns instead.