TurboTax / Tax Calculators & Tips / All Tax Guides / IRS Tax Return / How to Find Out How Much You Owe in IRS Back Taxes

How to Find Out How Much You Owe in IRS Back Taxes

Updated for Tax Year 2016


OVERVIEW

You can calculate what you owe in back taxes fairly accurately without even contacting the IRS.


Finding out how much you owe the IRS in back taxes will depend on whether the tax relates to returns you’ve already filed or ones you still need to file. Either way, you can calculate what you owe fairly accurately without even contacting the IRS, though at some point, you will need to contact the agency to make payments.

Step 1: Obtain copies of all tax returns that you still owe taxes on

The first thing you'll need to do is gather all of your relevant returns and documents that relate to each year you still owe back taxes for. Each of your tax returns will report the amount of tax you owe, but never paid. If you did file a return but no longer have a copy, you can obtain one from your accountant who prepared it for you or if necessary, you can order a duplicate copy from the IRS.

Step 2: File your past-due tax returns

If your back taxes relate to returns you have yet to file, then you can calculate the amount of tax you owe for each year by preparing the actual return. However, when you do, you must use all tax forms for the year you are filing.

For example, if during 2016 you decide to prepare your 2013 tax return; then you must only use 2007 tax forms, schedules and instructions. If you mistakenly file using the forms for a different tax year, the IRS is likely to notify you of the error.

Accessing these old forms is not as difficult as you may think. The easiest option is to use tax preparation software, such as TurboTax. TurboTax provides you with access to many of the IRS forms from prior years. Alternatively, you can search for each form you need on the IRS website. However, many of the older forms on the IRS website require you to print and fill them out manually.

Step 3: Calculate your interest and penalties

Regardless of whether you file the tax return or are preparing it for the first time this year, you must increase your tax bill for the interest and penalty charges the IRS imposes when you pay your taxes late. Calculating your penalties and interest will provide you with a more accurate estimate of what you need to pay.

For example, if you file your tax return five months or more after the original due date, then you must increase your payment by 25 percent of the tax you still owe.

Step 4: Pay your back taxes

Once you determine how much you owe the IRS, it’s in your best interest to make payment arrangements immediately. At a minimum, your outstanding back tax balance will continue to accrue interest each month it remains unpaid.

If the amount you owe is significant and you are unable to make a lump-sum payment, you should contact the IRS to work out a payment plan. Once your installment plan is in place, you can avoid more severe collection enforcement by the IRS as long as you adhere to all terms of the agreement and make each payment on time.

Get every deduction you deserve

TurboTax Deluxe searches more than 350 tax deductions and credits so you get your maximum refund, guaranteed.

For only $54.99*
Start for Free

Looking for more information?

The above article is intended to provide generalized financial information designed to educate a broad segment of the public; it does not give personalized tax, investment, legal, or other business and professional advice. Before taking any action, you should always seek the assistance of a professional who knows your particular situation for advice on taxes, your investments, the law, or any other business and professional matters that affect you and/or your business.


Security is built into everything we do
Here's how
* Important Offer Details and Disclosures
  • TURBOTAX ONLINE/MOBILE

  • Try for Free/Pay When You File: TurboTax online and mobile pricing is based on your tax situation and varies by product. Absolute Zero $0 federal (1040EZ/1040A) + $0 state offer only available with TurboTax Federal Free Edition; offer may change or end at any time without notice. Actual prices are determined at the time of print or e-file and are subject to change without notice. Savings and price comparisons based on anticipated price increase expected in March. Special discount offers may not be valid for mobile in-app purchases.
  • TurboTax Self-Employed ExpenseFinder: ExpenseFinder™ is available year round as a feature of QuickBooks Self-Employed (available with TurboTax Self-Employed, see the “QuickBooks Self-Employed Offer with TurboTax Self-Employed” details below.) ExpenseFinder™ expected late January (late February for mobile app). ExpenseFinder™ not available from within TurboTax Self-Employed for people with certain types of expenses and tax situations including paying contractors or employees, home office or vehicle actuals, inventory, self employed health insurance or retirement, asset depreciation, sale of property or vehicles, and farm income. Availability of historical transactions for import may vary by financial institution. Not available for all financial institutions or all credit cards.
  • QuickBooks Self-Employed Offer with TurboTax Self-Employed: File your 2016 TurboTax Self-Employed return by 4/18/17 and receive your complimentary subscription to QuickBooks Self-Employed until 4/30/18. Activation required. Sign in to QuickBooks Self-Employed by 7/15/17 via mobile app or at https://selfemployed.intuit.com/turbotax; e-mail address used for activation and sign-in. Offer valid only for new QuickBooks Self-Employed customers. See QuickBooks.com for price comparison.
    • When you use TurboTax Self-Employed to file your 2017 taxes, you will have the option to renew your QuickBooks Self-Employed subscription. If you do not purchase TurboTax Self-Employed by 4/18/18, you will have the option of renewing your QuickBooks Self-Employed subscription by 4/30/18 for another year at the then-current annual subscription rate. You may cancel your subscription at any time from within the QuickBooks Self-Employed billing section.
  • Pays for itself (TurboTax Self-Employed): Estimates based on deductible business expenses calculated at the self-employment tax income rate (15%) for tax year 2016. Actual results will vary based on your tax situation.
  • Anytime, anywhere: Internet access required; standard message and data rates apply to download and use mobile app.
  • Fastest refund possible: Fastest tax refund with e-file and direct deposit; tax refund time frames will vary.
  • Pay for TurboTax out of your federal refund: $X.XX Refund Processing Service fee applies to this payment method. Prices are subject to change without notice.
  • TurboTax Expert Help, Tax Advice and SmartLook: Included with Deluxe, Premier and Self-Employed (via phone or on-screen); not included with Federal Free Edition (but available for purchase with the Plus bundle). SmartLook on-screen help is available on a PC, laptop or the TurboTax mobile app. TurboTax experts provide general advice, customer service and product help; tax advice provided only by credentialed CPAs, enrolled agents and tax attorneys. Feature availability varies by device. State tax advice is free. Service, area of expertise, experience levels, hours of operation and availability vary, and are subject to restriction and change without notice.
  • Tax Return Access, My Docs and My Analysis & Advice features: Access to all tax-related documents we have on file for you is available until you file your 2017 tax return or through 10/31/2018, whichever comes first. Terms and conditions may vary and are subject to change without notice.
  • #1 best-selling tax software: Based on aggregated sales data for all tax year 2015 TurboTax products.
  • Most Popular: TurboTax Deluxe is our most popular product among TurboTax Online users with more complex tax situations.
  • CompleteCheck: Covered under the TurboTax accurate calculations and maximum refund guarantees.
  • #1 rated online tax prep provider: Based on independent comparison of the best online tax software by TopTenReviews.com March 13, 2017.
  • TURBOTAX CD/DOWNLOAD SOFTWARE

  • TurboTax CD/Download products: Price includes tax preparation and printing of federal tax returns and free federal e-file of up to 5 federal tax returns. Additional fees apply for e-filing state returns. E-file fees do not apply to New York state returns. Savings and price comparison based on anticipated price increase expected in March. Prices subject to change without notice.
  • Fastest refund possible: Fastest tax refund with e-file and direct deposit; tax refund time frames will vary.
  • Pay for TurboTax out of your federal refund: $X.XX Refund Processing Service fee applies to this payment method. Prices are subject to change without notice. This benefit is available with TurboTax Federal products except TurboTax Business.
  • About our TurboTax Product Experts: Customer service and product support vary by time of year.
  • About our credentialed tax experts: Live tax advice via phone is included with Premier and Home & Business; fees apply for Basic and Deluxe customers. State tax advice is free. Service, experience levels, hours of operation and availability vary, and are subject to restriction and change without notice. Not available for TurboTax Business customers.
  • #1 best-selling tax software: Based on aggregated sales data for all tax year 2015 TurboTax products.
  • Data Import: Imports financial data from participating companies. Quicken and QuickBooks import not available with TurboTax installed on a Mac. Imports from Quicken (2015 and higher) and QuickBooks Desktop (2011 and higher); both Windows only. Quicken import not available for TurboTax Business. Quicken products provided by Quicken Inc., Quicken import subject to change.