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How to File Past State Tax Returns

How to File Past State Tax Returns

Filing past state taxes can get complicated with all those different rules and regulations – let PriorTax take care of them for you

There are plenty of guides to filing federal taxes late, but not nearly as many for filing past state tax returns. Why? Because each state does it a little differently. The key to getting your past state tax returns dealt with is not to memorize lots of rules and regulations for each state, but to work closely with someone who is familiar with the subject.


The penalties for filing past state tax returns vary wildly: in Montana, the minimum is $50, the penalty is 1.2% per month, and the interest is .02192% per day. In Rhode Island, the penalty is a flat 10%, and the interest is anything under 12%. In North Carolina, interest is 5% per month up to 25%, with a minimum of $5.00 for state and county, plus a flat 10%, with interest on top of that.

Past state tax returns vary a lot, in how penalties are assessed and in how much interest they charge, but the amounts are much smaller than they are for federal taxes. Because of this, tax professionals tend to focus more on the federal side, and not spend as much time trying to squeeze every last dime out of state tax returns.

In fact, most people who file past state tax returns do so at the same time that they’re filing prior federal taxes. This is convenient, since they require many of the same documents (and getting all the paperwork out of the way at once is a little easier).

To file your past state tax returns, it’s best to get the same information you’d use for the federal return. You can contact the state department of revenue if you want, but it’s often easier to work with a tax professional. Although there isn’t a lot you can do to make the penalties and interest go away, you can bet that a tax professional will find something for you — whether it’s knowing how to negotiate for reduced penalties or helping to figure out how much interest is owed.

Your past state tax returns are often harder to deal with than past Federal taxes. If you moved to a new state, you can end up having to deal with out-of-date information, time zone differences, and other inconveniences, and if you also have to deliver information to someone, things get even more complex. Fortunately, a good tax preparer can simplify the process of filing past state tax returns, and can help you get them out of the way once and for all.

Photo via sindesign on Flickr.

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