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  • Penalties for not Filing Tax and How to Avoid Them

    Tax bills are bad enough as they are, but even worse than them are the penalties levied by the IRS for failure to pay your taxes on time. There are many different ways through which the IRS collects additional money. Tax penalties may be levied for not filing tax returns, not possessing health insurance, and a number of retirement account inactions or actions as the case may be. However, the main reasons as to why tax penalties are levied on individuals include not paying the amount owed, not paying sufficient tax during the course of the year, or not filing tax returns at all.

    Non-Filing Penalty:

    In case an individual fails to file Form 1040, he / she must ensure to use Form 4868 for an extension before April 15 in order to avoid the accrual of penalties. The charge imposed is usually 5% per month of all tax balances due. Customers who are late in filing their tax returns will have to pay the whole monthly charge regardless of how late they are in a particular month. For instance, if the returns are filed on the 1st of May, the customer will still be charged the 5% monthly penalty for that month.

    A good number of taxpayers find themselves in the ostrich routine, particularly those who owe tax and aren’t able to afford payments. Such customers simply ignore filing, which is far from a good idea because they are merely delaying the inevitable. If an extension is offered until say, the 15th of October, to submit the Form 1040, customers will have to pay up before the deadline in order to avoid the accrual of the non-filing penalty. Moreover, the IRS views non-filing of returns as a very serious offence – even worse than not paying tax. But the good thing about this penalty is that it cannot be more than 25% of the customer’s unpaid taxes. However, 25% is still a heavy penalty to pay for not filling out a form on time.

    Non-Payment Penalty

    Unpaid taxes are subject to their own charges. Even if a customer files his / her returns or extension by the 15th of April but fail to pay the money they owe in the same month, a non-payment penalty equal to 0.5% of the due tax will be levied. Similar to a non-filing penalty, a non-payment penalty is also calculated for each month, or parts of the month in which your tax bill remains unpaid. Again, like the non-filing penalty, this penalty can accrue until it hits 25% of the customer’s unpaid tax bill.

    Underpayment Penalty:

    Underpayment penalties are levied when a customer does not make the whole payment owed on tax. Taxes must be paid as income is earned, and most taxpayers comply with the rule for fear that income tax will be withheld from their paycheques. However, independent contractors who work side jobs in addition to their salaried employment or as full time workers are responsible for ensuring that the tax due on their earnings are covered through estimated tax payments.

    The payment of tax on time is also applicable to other incomes like stock options, investment earnings and prize winnings. Sometimes, individuals who get these different kinds of untaxed incomes pay the money they owe in one lump sum during the time of filing their taxes. A portion of the earnings through such incomes must be paid to the IRS, and failure to do so will result in the levy of an underpayment penalty regardless of whether or not you eventually pay the whole tax due.

    Ways to Avoid Tax Penalties:

    In case a customer has been levied with an underpayment penalty, they can meet one of two estimated tax-filing safe harbours: either pay taxes that are lesser of 90% of their present year’s tax liability or 100% of their previous year’s tax liability. Majority of the taxpayers choose the previous year’s safe harbour as the payment on it is fixed while the 90% is considered a moving target.

    Individuals with salaried jobs can also compensate for an estimated tax shortfall by simply raising their withholding there. Married couples receive an additional option and if they file their returns together, the withholding of a spouse will cover any scarcity of estimated taxes due on the untaxed income of the wife or husband.

    Another great way to avoid tax penalties is to annualise your income. To do so, you will have to file Form 2210 and break down deductions and income by estimated tax period, demonstrating that payments were made in the established order. If the customer received a sizeable income at the year’s end, it will only be counted for the fourth quarter, but annualising confirms that the customer had the right amount in the first three quarters and only required to pay the higher estimated amount in the final quarter.

    Other Penalty Options including Interest:

    The IRS could be lenient towards customers who have been hit with a tax penalty for the first time. In such cases, customers can make an abatement request and show the organisation that you have maintained a good tax-paying history and that you will be compliant with the payments conditions in the future. However, even if some penalty relief is granted by the IRS, interest charges will still be levied on unpaid taxes.

    Since interest is statutory, it is not generally abated. For general non-filing and non-payment situations, the prevailing interest rate is 3%, and this rate is compounded quarterly and not annually, meaning that it can accrue quickly, similar to the tax penalties levied on non-filing and non-payment of taxes. Customers can avoid these tax penalties with ease by merely filing their Form 1040 on time.

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