How do I file taxes for previous years?

You'll have to file each missed year separately. Don't panic. The IRS can provide you with the proper forms for each year.
You'll have to file each missed year separately. Don't panic. The IRS can provide you with the proper forms for each year.

Lindsay Lohan and Lionel Richie. Roberta Flack and Sally Kellerman. All celebrities. All owed back taxes. In 2012, USA Today found out which celebrities owed the government $50,000 or more in back taxes. Richie, whose mellow voice made him a bestselling pop star, owed $1.1 million. At the time, he promised to make good. Lohan owed $230,904, and the singer Roberta Flack had $156,824 in federal tax liens. She ended up negotiating a payment arrangement, according to the paper [source: Cauchon].

The point is that everyone has to pay taxes, whether you're a B-list actress, a pop icon, or just a regular non-celebrity. And just because you didn't receive any actual money one year is not an excuse not to file your income tax return. Income comprises not only wages, tips and salaries, but also such things as free housing, stipends, prizes, awards, gambling winnings and scholarships [sources: IRS].


When filing past returns, you have to go through the same process as you normally would for a current tax return. You'll need all your W-2s or 1099s for the missing tax years. If you're missing any of these documents, you can request copies from the IRS. You also need all your receipts and other records for any deductions you might claim for that particular year [sources: IRS].

Once you have all your documentation, you have to file your back taxes using the original forms for each tax year. You can pluck those from the IRS website, or from the various tax preparation software companies. You can then submit your forms and payments just as you would normally.

It's in your best interest to file a return each year. For one thing, you could lose your refund or your right to claim tax credits if you neglect to file in a timely manner. You have three years to file your late returns. If you don't file, you might not get mortgage loans, student loans or business loans or be able to refinance existing loans. Banks like to see what you make every year before giving you money [sources: IRS].

Can't pay your taxes in full? No problem. You can request an installment agreement.


Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Cauchon, Dennis. "Celebrities are often in debt to the tax man." USA Today. April 17, 2012. (Oct. 9, 2014)
  • Internal Revenue Service. "Filing Past Due Tax Returns." (Oct. 9, 2014)
  • TurboTax. "How do I File Back Tax Returns? (Oct. 9, 2014)