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How Far Back Can the IRS Go for Unfiled Taxes? Explained and Answered

Unfiled taxes can lead to serious consequences, including penalties, interest, and potential collection efforts by the IRS. It’s important to understand how far back the IRS can go when it comes to unfiled taxes, whether they forgive tax debt after a certain period, and if they are willing to work with taxpayers in resolving unfiled tax issues.

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How many years can the IRS go back if you didn’t file taxes?

The IRS generally has a statute of limitations of three years from the original due date of a tax return to assess any tax liability and claim a refund. However, if you fail to file a tax return, the statute of limitations never starts, allowing the IRS to go back as far as they need to assess taxes against you. In other words, there is no specific time limit if you haven’t filed taxes.

Does the IRS forgive tax debt after 10 years?

The IRS has a collection statute of limitations of ten years from the date a tax liability is assessed. This means that they have ten years to collect the unpaid taxes, including penalties and interest, from the date of assessment. After the ten-year period, the tax debt is generally forgiven, and the IRS cannot pursue further collection efforts. However, it’s important to note that certain circumstances, such as bankruptcy or entering into an installment agreement, can toll or pause the collection statute of limitations.

Will the IRS work with you on unfiled taxes?

Yes, the IRS is willing to work with taxpayers who have unfiled taxes. The first step is to file the necessary tax returns as soon as possible. If you are unable to pay the full tax debt, you can explore options such as an installment agreement, offer in compromise, or requesting a temporary delay in collection efforts. It’s crucial to communicate with the IRS and be proactive in resolving your unfiled tax issues. Ignoring the situation will only lead to more severe consequences, such as property liens, wage garnishments, or even legal action.


Unfiled taxes can have long-lasting implications on your financial well-being. The IRS can go back indefinitely if you haven’t filed taxes, and the collection statute of limitations is ten years from the date of assessment. However, the IRS is willing to work with taxpayers to resolve unfiled tax issues through various payment options. It’s crucial to take immediate action, consult with a tax professional if needed, and ensure compliance with your tax obligations to avoid unnecessary penalties and hardships.

You can click here or call (800) 875-5509 to be connected with a verified partner of IRS Fresh Start Initiative.

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