top of page


  • Daniel Rodriguez

The Penalties for Unfiled Tax Returns in California

If you didn’t file taxes for a previous year, file them now. Unfiled taxes can mean serious penalties, which stack up over time. Even if it’s been a few years, there is still a chance that the unfiled taxes could mean penalties or even criminal charges for willful failure to file. If you are behind on your taxes, talk to a Roseville tax attorney to see what you can do to repair your tax situation and get your taxes paid. The Roseville tax attorneys at NewPoint Law Group, LLP are available for free consultations to help you handle your unfiled tax returns.

Unfiled Tax Return Penalty

Regardless of how you feel about paying taxes or what your financial situation is, the IRS wants its taxes – and it wants them on time. The annual tax deadline for filing is usually in April of the following year. In 2017, your 2016 taxes were due on Tuesday, April 18. Your 2017 taxes will be due on Tuesday, April 17, 2018 and your 2018 taxes will be due on Monday, April 15, 2019. If you still haven’t paid your 2016 taxes (or any taxes from an earlier year), they are clearly late by now.

Failing to file your taxes can leave you vulnerable to a few different results – most of which are seriously unwanted punishments. The first, and one of the most likely punishments, are tax penalties. There are a few ways that penalties can be added to your tax burden, but failure to pay penalties and failure to file penalties are two of the most common tax penalties.

Failure to Pay Penalties

For every month that you fail to pay your taxes, the IRS will charge you an additional 0.5% of your tax burden. While one-half of one percent may not seem like an extreme penalty, this penalty accumulates monthly for every month you are late. “One month,” under these rules, is any whole month or fraction of a month. This means that if you filed your 2016 taxes on May 3, 2017, you would be late for the month of April and the month of May, even though you were less than 30 days late. That means a 1% penalty. This penalty can stack an additional 0.5% onto each month your taxes go unpaid.

Even if you file for an extension on your taxes, taxes are always due by Tax Day. The deadline can only be extended for filing your taxes, but you must still pay your 2017 taxes by April 18, 2018 or pay your 2018 taxes by April 15, 2019. If you fail to pay, but file your taxes and pay by the extended deadline, you may still be charged a late payment penalty.

Failure to File Penalties

On top of this, you can also face another penalty for every month you are late in filing your taxes. This penalty is more severe, adding a 5% penalty for each month. This penalty is much greater than the 0.5% penalty for failure to pay, and also stacks for each month (or part of a month) that you fail to file your taxes. If you fail to file and fail to pay taxes, you can face both penalties (though the rates may change). This penalty cannot go beyond 25% total (which occurs after 5 months of failing to file).

This deadline may be extended by filing for an extension. Filing for an extension must be done before the date your taxes are due. Because an extension is not valid until it is approved and accepted by the IRS, you should always give yourself a cushion of time before Tax Day. If your extension is denied, you will still have to file your taxes by the deadline, or else face penalties

Tax Interest

If you are late or behind on your taxes, you may have to pay interest on the money you owe. This interest, unlike penalties, is compound interest. Rather than accumulating a percentage of the tax burden each month, your total owed taxes compound at around 4% daily interest. If you put this in terms of a loan, 4% may be a reasonable interest rate – but it is not something you want to have to pay.

Substitute Returns

Failing to file taxes may mean the IRS files a substitute return on your behalf. Substitute returns are a sort of default guess at what your return should say – and usually do not include any of the tax credits or deductions to which you might be entitled. This could increase your overall tax burden beyond what it would be if you claimed credits or deductions. Ultimately, alongside the penalties, this could mean high payments.

Criminal Charges

Willful failure to file and tax evasion are both felony crimes in the United States. These are not typically charged for those who simply forget to file or miss the deadline. Usually the penalties and substitute returns are punishment enough, but serious cases may end with criminal charges and prison sentences.

Roseville Failure to File Lawyers

If you are behind on taxes, missed a tax deadline, or otherwise failed to file your taxes, talk to an attorney right away. The Sacramento tax lawyers at NewPoint Law Group, LLP help taxpayers in Roseville, Folsom, Sacramento, and the surrounding areas file late or back taxes and help them avoid or reduce their penalties. For a free consultation on your late taxes, call our lawyers today at 800-358-0305.

Recent Posts

See All

Why you should file your tax return

Most California residents are required to file their personal federal income tax returns by the middle of April each year. The deadline to file is pushed back by six months if requested extension requ


Sacramento form background.jpg

Connect with an Attorney

Your business deserves a legal partner who understands your current needs and is equipped to evolve with you. NewPoint Law Group is ready to be that partner, ensuring that your legal foundation is as robust and forward-thinking at every milestone as your business itself.

Create, Grow, and Protect Your Business with NewPoint Law Group

bottom of page