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What is the IRS Late-filing Penalty

IRS Late-filing Penalty

Many taxpayers don’t realize it, but the IRS can charge you a late-filing penalty, regardless of the amount of tax you still owe, for filing your tax return after the April 15 deadline. However, you will not be charged a late-filing penalty if you are due a tax refund or otherwise report a zero tax liability on the return. The late-filing penalty will increase the amount of tax you owe by 5% for each month your taxes remain unpaid. For example, if you owe $1,000 for the tax year, but file your tax return two months late, the new amount you owe the IRS is $1,092. Keep in mind that this late-filing penalty is separate, and in addition to, other penalties you may incur for paying late. However, the IRS late-filing penalty maxes out at 25 percent or five months, whichever comes first. But there are other penalties the IRS can charge you after reaching the maximum late-filing penalty.

If your tax remains unpaid after the five months, the late-payment penalty will begin to apply. This penalty continues to increase the amount you owe the IRS by one-half percent each month for approximately four years.

Minimum Late-filing Penalty Charges

Although it will not cost you as much when the tax you owe is minimal, the IRS will still impose a minimum late-filing penalty for failing to file your return or filing after the April 15th deadline. Once your return is more than 60 days late, the minimum tax penalty is the smaller of $135 or the income tax you still owe. However, if you have reasonable cause for filing late, such as a recent medical issue that prevents you from filing, the IRS can waive the penalty.

Avoiding the Late-filing Penalty with Extensions

There is no reason why you should ever incur a late-filing penalty since the IRS offers all taxpayers an automatic six-month extension of time to file their tax returns–which gives you until October 15 to file. If you think you will owe tax on April 15, you can obtain the extension simply by using a credit card to make a tax payment to the IRS. But if you don’t want to make a tax payment just yet, all you need to do is fill out Form 4868 and mail it to the IRS by the original April filing deadline. By doing this, you effectively reduce the amount of tax penalties you will owe. Despite the fact you owe tax, your tax return is no longer late–meaning the late-filing penalty doesn’t apply.

Reference: Internal Revenue Code Sec. 6651