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What should you do if you have not filed taxes for years?

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Unpaid Taxes
The problem is there is something called a Statute of Limitations (SOL) on your liability for taxes for any period. (There is also one limiting the period of time the Gov't has to allow you to correct an error and get a refund). After the SOL period the IRS can't really bug you about them. It is generally 2 or 3 years. However, it only starts running from your date of filing a return. If you you don't file, the period never starts to run and you are perpetually open to assessment and payment. And it is highly likely that you (or your estate), will sooner or later have to face the issue. Considerations like wanting to collect Social Security or other Government benefits may enter into it too.

Not filing can certainly be a criminal act (which is the type of thing that surfaces when you least want it to) and that complicates many things, especially if you've gotten involved in any other problems. It's called setting yourself up for the squeeze!

As a rule of thumb, the IRS will look for only the last 7 years, and may be willing to work out an agreement for less for someone that is voluntarily coming forward.

Moreover, it is not uncommon to find that, because of how confused people can get about the tax system, that someone who didn't file actually not only didn't have any additional liability, but because of withholdings or earned income credits, etc., may actually have had a refund coming! (More common than you may think).

It is clearly better to have someone independent and knowledgeable approach the IRS for you. This can be a Lawyer or CPA (and others), but I would recommend you find (in the yellow pages under Tax) someone showing an E.A. designation. This stands for Enrolled Agent and is a specialized certification, frequently earned by ex IRS agents, and that the people who have frequently are particularly adept in these matters, and reasonably priced.
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