How Do I File Previous or Old Tax Returns with the IRS?

At some point, you may have to file an old or previous tax return. This could be to receive a refund you were entitled to during a tax year you didn't file, or you need to file an amended return to correct an error. Filing an old or previous tax return follows the same process as filing the current year's return. Previous year forms can be downloaded from the IRS website or requested via telephone.

Adam Goldkamp is the editor / author responsible for this content.
Dec 9, 2022

Tax season can be a stressful time for many people, but it can be more stressful if you find that there was a year, or maybe a few years, worth of taxes that were never filed. There could also be circumstances where taxes were filed, but new information requires filing amended returns on previous tax years. How do you file previous or old tax returns with the IRS? What happens when you file old tax returns? You can get more information on filing taxes by contacting IRS customer service here, and below are things you need to know about filing old returns.

What You Need to Know About Filing Tax Returns

If you were required to file a tax return during a prior tax period, or there was information that wasn't included on a return filed and needs to be added, you can file a late return or an amended return. There are several reasons why you should file your old returns, including:

  1. Penalties: You can be fined if you do not file your tax returns on time each year. These penalties can add up over time increasing your debt burden. The sooner you file, the less you will owe in penalties and fines.
  2. Refunds: You may have been entitled to a refund of taxes you'd previously paid into the federal government. Failure to file a tax return could result in losing out on your refund.
  3. Earned Income Tax Credit: Even if you did not make enough money to require you file taxes, not filing could mean you don't get to take advantage of Earned Income Tax Credit. You have three years from the eligibility date to file and claim EITC and get a refund.
  4. For those who are self-employed, failure to file also means you will not get any credits toward Social Security retirement or disability benefits.

How to File an Old/Previous or Amended Return

Filing late or old tax returns follows the same process as filing the current year's forms. You can file a previous or old tax return with the IRS by completing the following:

  1. Open the IRS website in your browser.
  2. Select "Forms and Instructions" from the menu bar.
  3. In the menu at the left-hand side of the screen, select "Prior Year."
  4. Choose the year you are filing from the selections provided. If the year is not listed, you can call the IRS here to request forms and instructions.
  5. Download the forms.
  6. Complete the forms and attach any supporting documentation (such as W-2 forms).
  7. Mail the completed forms to the IRS.

Commercial Tax Preparation Service

If your previous filing is complicated, or you used a tax preparation service in the past and need to file an amended return, contact the tax professional that you used in the past. The commercial tax preparation service will be able to file your amended return.

Filing old or previous tax returns can help you avoid penalties and receive any refunds that you may have been owed. For more information and assistance, contact IRS customer service here.

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Adam has been tirelessly trying to help customers find the best tips and tricks to get through phone trees and writing many guides for prickly customer service problems. He's been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inside Edition and Bloomberg.
How Do I File Previous or Old Tax Returns with the IRS?

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