Question

I don't know whether or not I should file taxes from previous years. If I didn't file a federal return for the last few years, am I responsible for filing those late returns?

Answer

If you did not meet the filing requirements, you aren’t required to file a federal return. There are gross income thresholds you should check for each year you did not file. Dependents and nondependents have different filing return requirements.

Also, other situations might require you to file return(s), especially if you owe any special taxes like these:

  • Alternative minimum tax (AMT)
  • Additional tax on a qualified plan, including an IRA, or other tax-favored account. However, if you’re filing taxes only because of this tax, you can file Form 5329 by itself.
  • Household employment taxes. However, if you file a return only because of this tax, you can file Schedule H by itself.
  • Social Security and Medicare tax on either of these:
    • Tips you didn’t report to your employer
    • Wages you received from an employer who didn’t withhold these taxes
  • Recapture taxes, like the first-time homebuyer credit
  • Write-in taxes, including uncollected Social Security and Medicare or railroad retirement tax on either of these:
    • Tips reported to your employer
    • Group-term life insurance and additional tax on health savings account (HSA) distributions
  • You — or your spouse if filing jointly — received distributions from any of these:
    • HSA
    • Archer MSA
    • Medicare Advantage MSA distributions
  • Net earnings from self-employment of at least $400
  • Wages of $108.28 or more from a church or qualified organization that’s exempt from employer Social Security and Medicare taxes

Even if you aren’t required to file, you might want to. This way, you can get a refund of any withholding or refundable credits. You usually can still get a refund for up to three years prior. So, for 2017, you can still file for 2016, 2015, and 2014. This will also help you with a net-operating-loss carryover. Then you might take the carryover in future years, when there is enough income to offset it.

If you want to file those prior-year returns, you can’t do it using H&R Block Online. However, you can file prior-year returns in either of these two ways:

  • Talk to a tax professional.
  • Use a prior-year version of H&R Block Software

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