Knowing how to file past tax returns is a skill that can help you in a lot of ways.
It keeps you from falling further into debt. It helps you keep track of your financial history. It can save you money or bills. It can make filing this years return go a lot faster.
But can knowing how to file past tax returns cancel out what you owed last year?
In a word… Maybe.
It depends how we define the idea of cancel. If we say that cancel means the IRS looks at your past tax returns, see that they were filed, and literally erases any debt then, no. Knowing how to file your past tax returns won’t save you from any past due tax debt (though it will vastly reduce any debt you have!)
Or does the IRS owe you?
But if you’re like the average American with some past due taxes, chances are you there’s nothing to cancel out. That’s because if you’re the average American trying to figure out how to file past tax returns you don’t owe anything! In fact, the government owes you money!
This is because most people who have back taxes are likely to be from the income brackets most served by things like tax credits and tax cuts. It’s like a sneaky trick the IRS is trying to play on everyone–convincing us that if we learn how to file past tax returns we’ll owe them instead of the other way around! This keeps too many people from learning how to file past tax returns and claiming their money!
So how to file a past tax return? It’s pretty simple and a lot like filing a current return. Simply gather up the documents you’ll need (those old W2’s, you old receipts, etc, etc). You can either request the necessary forms from the IRS and fill them out yourself and do the much faster (and simpler) thing and file those past tax returns online. There are a lot of reputable companies out there who will help make sure that you don’t miss a single line or owed dollar.
Don’t worry about learning how to file past tax returns to cancel what you owed last year–worry about learning how to file them so you can get last years money back!
Photo via Alan Cleaver on Flickr.