Wondering how to file back tax returns? Filling back taxes can be very nerve wrecking considering that one might not have all documents, or might not have the money to pay any taxes that might be owed.  But where do you start?  What steps to you actually take?  So as to avoid further problems, this post will tell you the exact steps that one needs to take to get all those back tax returns filed ASAP!

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Gather Documents

This is your starting point.  This will include looking through piles of paperwork from the previous years. You want to find any W2’s, 1099’s, interest paid, dividends paid, mortgage statements, property taxes, stock sales and more. Remember original documents are always best.  This is because it will include things like state taxes withheld that might not be included on an IRS transcript.  So if you know who gave you income in a particular year try contacting your current/former employer and requesting an original copy for your paperwork.

Now, after looking through all the paperwork you have, begin analyzing what you do have versus what think you’re missing.   Now how exactly do you do this?  No need to panic, check out the next step!

Get Transcripts

Now, if you can’t remember all your sources of income or deductions for the year that you need to file, you can cross-check your documents with the IRS history for your social security number. In order to receive this, you must request a wage and income transcript. To do this online, you can go to Request Transcripts Here directly from the IRS. In, order to request it via mail, you can file IRS Form 4506-T to have it mailed to you.

Once you have your transcripts, look at what is reported versus what you have in hand.  If you are missing something when compared to the IRS transcript, you will now know who you need to contact and request a duplicate copy!

Prepare Returns

Now, once you have your documents, you are now ready to prepare the returns.  But what you might find is that most tax software will not allow you to file for any previous years. There are a couple of alternatives you can turn to:

  • Go to the IRS website and find the form(s) for the year you are trying to file. After obtaining the form, you can prepare them manually and mail them to the IRS and state tax authorities if you live in a state that makes residents pay income taxes.
  • If you are looking to find software to file, you might want to do your research and find one that offers the year you are looking for.
  • You might not want to deal with preparing the taxes yourself. If this is the case; you want to find a service provider which specializes in old tax returns. You can find a national firm or a local company to help you.  We offer one such service via our specialty website https://fileoldtaxreturns.com/ that allows you to get your taxes filed in as little as a few hours/days depending on if you have already gathered your documents.

Plan for Balances

After going through the hassle of obtaining all the documents and finding a way to prepare them, next you want to start planning for any possible balances due before reaching the IRS. Considering that this is money that was earned/owed years ago, the IRS will have expected you to have saved it for them! From a more realistic aspect, you probably will not have the money ready to hand over.

To that end, some solutions could be to enter into a payment plan, requesting an offer in compromise, or having your account determined currently uncollectible.


We know that filing tax returns is a headache in general, but having to file for older years makes it so much more difficult. Here we have provided all the resources you will need if you are looking to prepare them yourself. But what if you’re looking for some more detailed guidance?  Then check out our course!

By taking the course “How To File Back Tax Returns – A Step By Step Guide” you could learn how to put your unfiled tax situation  BEHIND YOU in as little as 24 hours!  This course is for anyone who has unfiled taxes and wants to file them the DIY route.  It’s also for tax professionals who want to know the nuances of filing old tax returns.  So check it out and feel free to reach out to us via the info on the contact us page if you have any questions.