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Fail to File Tax Returns? Is the IRS ever barred from bringing criminal charges?

Posted by Michael S. Anderson | Nov 16, 2011 | 0 Comments

Fail to File Tax Returns?

The tax code limits the time the IRS has to chase late tax return filers on a criminal basis.

It must bring a criminal charge against the non filer for failure to file within 6 years of the date the return was originally due.

So, if the return was due April 15 of 2003,  the IRS cannot prosecute for the failure to file that return after April 15 of 2009.

This criminal prosecution deadline is important in relation to civil penalty assessments for failure to file returns.

There is no deadline for the IRS to impose these civil penalties in addition to any tax owed.  So while you can't go to jail for not filing the 7 year old return, you will always be required to file the return if you had an obligation to do so.  In theory, the government could assess the tax, penalty and interest forever.


The IRS' internal policy is that old returns – beyond six years should generally (not always) be ignored.

Read the Internal Revenue Manual 0021 and IRS policy statement P-5-133 for more.

About the Author

Michael S. Anderson

Michael Anderson has been representing Arizonans with tax debt problems for almost two decades and has helped his clients eliminate millions of dollars in tax debt. His tax debt practice is limited to helping individuals and the self-employed who have serious IRS and other debt problems. He provi...


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