How far back can I go to get a tax refund?
While it’s recommended to file your taxes each year by the deadline regardless of whether you’re expecting a refund or not, many people neglect this responsibility. However, like all other choices you make in life, there are often consequences of your choices that you cannot escape. So if you are trying to account for the years that you failed to file your taxes, it is important that you know what you can expect.
In terms of your federal taxes with the Internal Revenue Service, you can go back up to three years from the date that you were supposed to have filed by and still receive a full refund. If you are trying to obtain a federal refund any years farther back than three years ago, your efforts will not be successful. Also, if you try to e-file a federal tax return from a year in which the deadline for filing has already passed, you will be required to mail your return to the IRS instead of using an e-file service. Be prepared to wait 12 weeks or more for the IRS to process a late return. In other words, if you are expecting a refund, don’t count on receiving it anytime soon.
The three-year limit also applies to any amendments to years that you filed incorrectly the first time. However, keep in mind that amended returns are also not allowed to be filed using an online service. Instead, the only method that the IRS will accept for an amended return is by submitting Form 1040X in paper through the mail.
In terms of state taxes, though, your ability to receive a tax refund for past years that you neglected to file for depends on the state in which you reside. So if you are attempting to file your state taxes for past years and expecting a refund, you should check the laws for your state to see if a refund is still a possibility.