While most people regularly file their taxes each spring, it can easily get away from some people who are dealing with other life issues. And, once you've missed a year filing income taxes, it may even snowball and become harder to get back into the habit. Or, you may find that you don't have the forms you need in order to file for a year or two in the past. So, what should you do if this is your situation? Here's a handy guide.
Start With the Current Year
The best place to begin to get your tax situation in order is with the year that just finished. Your wage and expense records will be the easiest to find because they're the most recent. It also gets you an easy "win" in getting your financial house in order. The only exception to this guideline may be if you had a business in prior years which may have generated a loss that you can carry forward against current income. If this is the case, you may want to begin by consulting with a professional, such as Bronson Law Firm PC, who provide services for special tax problems.
Collect Old Forms
Once you've done the current year, it's time to start working on the last few years. If you cannot find all your W-2 forms at home, call all your old employers and request a copy of each year's W-2 or Form 1099 from the payroll or human resources departments. If you had a business during any of the past few years, you will need to collect any records you have of income -- such as bank statements, invoices, or reports from the accounting software you used -- and expenses.
Request a Tax Transcripts
If you cannot remember all your employers, if any have gone out of business, or if you can't get the W-2 forms from them, you can request information from the IRS showing what information they received from your employers each year. You may request this "tax transcript" online at the IRS website. You will need to verify your identity and then you may be able to view your recent years' activity online or by mail.
File the Prior Three Years
Once you have collected the forms for the last few years, file your income taxes for the three years prior to the current one. This is because you forfeit any refunds after three years, so it's best to file within that time frame in case you are due a refund. If you are filing 2016 taxes by April of 2017, for example, it's the last opportunity to claim any refund due for the tax years 2013, 2014, and 2015.
Get Help With Special Circumstances
If you need to file more years than the past three or so, you may want to work with a qualified tax service that specializes in resolving tax problems. This is also true if you have specific and unresolved issues that led to your not filing taxes -- things such as unpaid liens, business partnerships that went badly, issues with your spouse at the times of filing, custody questions, or confusion over how to file.
Congratulations on your decision to get your financial situation under control when it comes to your taxes. You'll surely find that, while it takes a little bit of time and energy investment, the result will be that you can move forward with confidence and security, knowing that you're in control of your finances.