Filing Back Taxes in 2023: What You Need to Know


Filing back taxes may seem like a daunting task, but it’s essential to address any unpaid or unfiled taxes as soon as possible to avoid further penalties and interest. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is increasingly vigilant about ensuring that taxpayers comply with their tax obligations. This article will guide you through the essential information you need to know about filing back taxes in 2023.

  1. Determine which tax years need to be filed

The first step in filing back taxes is to determine which tax years you need to file for. You should start by reviewing your records and contacting the IRS to determine which returns are missing or have not been filed. You can request a transcript of your tax account from the IRS, which will show you any missing or unfiled tax returns. In some cases, the IRS will only want to go back six years, even if you have more then six years of unfiled tax returns – however, it takes professional judgment in some cases to evaluate this. An IRS policy statement P-5-133 has more information about this policy – it can be found in the Internal Revenue Manual.

Also keep in mind that when you’re filing back taxes, only some years can be filed electronically and other years must be filed by paper. If you’re filing in 2023, you can usually file tax years 2022, 2021, and 2020 electronically up until December 2023. The older years such as 2019, 2018, and 2017 must be filed by paper.

  1. Gather your documents and records

Once you know which tax years need to be filed, gather all the necessary documents and records, including W-2s, 1099s, receipts for deductible expenses, and records of any other income or tax credits. If you’re missing any documents, contact your employer, bank, or any other relevant party to obtain copies. The IRS can also provide you with wage and income transcripts, which will have information reported to them by employers and financial institutions.

  1. Choose the right tax forms

Depending on the tax year, you may need to use different tax forms. The IRS maintains a library of past tax forms and instructions on its website. Be sure to select the appropriate forms for the year you’re filing and follow the instructions carefully. Tax laws change frequently, so using the correct forms for each year is critical.

  1. Consider professional help

Filing back taxes can be complex, and errors can lead to further penalties and interest. It may be worthwhile to seek professional help from a certified public accountant (CPA), enrolled agent (EA), or tax attorney with experience in filing back taxes. They can help you navigate the process, ensure you claim all eligible deductions and credits, and minimize your tax liability.

  1. File your back taxes and pay what you owe

Once your back tax returns are prepared, submit them to the IRS along with any payments due. If you cannot pay the entire amount due, you can apply for an installment agreement or an offer in compromise (OIC) to pay your tax debt over time or negotiate a reduced settlement. Keep in mind that applying for a payment plan or OIC doesn’t guarantee approval, and penalties and interest will continue to accrue until the debt is paid in full.

  1. Be prepared for an audit

The IRS may scrutinize back tax returns more closely, increasing the likelihood of an audit. Ensure your records are well-organized and thorough, and be prepared to provide documentation to support any deductions, credits, or other claims made on your returns.

  1. Avoid future issues

Once you’ve filed your back taxes, take steps to avoid future issues. Stay organized by keeping accurate records of your income, expenses, and deductions throughout the year. File your taxes on time each year and promptly address any correspondence from the IRS.


Filing back taxes is a critical step in addressing any outstanding tax obligations and avoiding further penalties and interest. By understanding the process and seeking professional help if necessary, you can ensure that you’re in compliance with your tax obligations and minimize your tax liability. Be sure to stay organized and diligent with your future tax filings to avoid any issues down the line.