Late Filing Penalty

A free tool by

Arielle Contreras
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Reviewed by
a tax professional
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Reviewed by
a tax professional

This content has been reviewed by an Enrolled Agent (EA) with the IRS — the highest credential awarded by the agency. Enrolled Agents are empowered to represent all taxpayers before the IRS, on all types of tax-related matters. Accountants who earn this certification have passed a comprehensive three-part exam on individual and business tax returns. To maintain EA status, they must stay up to date in the field by completing 72 hours of continuing education every three years.


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Whether you have an unsent tax return that's been weighing on you or you’ve just had a sudden realization your taxes are late, we all know that facing a missed tax deadline is an unpleasant endeavor.

The good news is that using this calculator to estimate your penalties is the first step to tackling the challenge. Keeper’s calculator lets you know how much your late filing penalty will cost — and if you read on, you’ll also find tips for paying your late taxes and avoiding future penalties.

What happens if you file or pay taxes late?

There’s a difference between filing and paying your taxes. Filing your taxes involves submitting your tax paperwork to the IRS, whereas paying your taxes involves sending money to the IRS for any owed taxes.

If you owe taxes, paying them late always comes with a penalty. So if you haven’t paid your taxes yet and the deadline has passed, you should give the calculator a whirl.

Filing your taxes late also typically comes with a penalty. However, there are a few situations that allow people to file after the deadline:

  • You’re expecting a refund. If you’re getting a refund and file late, you won’t be charged a penalty. However, you also won’t receive your refund until after you file.
  • You file for a tax extension. People who file for an extension can receive an additional six months to file their taxes.
  • You live abroad. If you’re a US citizen or resident immigrant who has a main place of business located outside the US and is living outside the US on the deadline date, you’ll automatically receive a two-month extension to file your tax return.
  • You’re in the military or on active duty outside the US. You’ll also receive an automatic two-month filing extension if you are on assignment for the tax filing deadline. There is also a provision for active military personnel in combat zones. They have 180 days after the end of their active service date in the combat zone to file a tax return.

To learn more about the potential consequences of filing late and how to get your late taxes filed and paid as soon as possible, check our guide to missed tax deadlines.

If none of the above applies to you and the tax deadline has passed, there’s a good chance you owe late filing penalties. Keeper’s calculator is here to give you an idea of how much that’ll be.

How to use Keeper’s late filing penalty calculator

To illustrate how the calculator works, we’ll fill in the fields using an example: Maya is an office administrator who lives in New York and owns a small jewelry business on the side.

It’s mid-November and Naomi hasn’t filed or paid her taxes yet. So she’s using the calculator to get started on sorting out her late taxes by figuring out how much her penalty will be.

Let’s get started.

Step #1 - Enter the number of months since taxes were due

The annual deadline to file personal income taxes is April 15. (Except for when this date falls on a weekend or public holiday, in which case the deadline is moved to the following business day.)

The failure-to-file penalty is calculated based on each month (or part of a month) that your tax return is late. So if you miss the April 15 deadline, your return will automatically be considered at least one month late.

In our example, Maya is using the calculator in mid-November. This means her tax return is eight months late.

Step #2 - Specify if you filed for a tax extension

If you know you’re going to be late filing your taxes, you can apply for an extension that gives you an extra six months. This moves your deadline from April 15 to October 15.

Keep in mind: the extension only applies to the filing deadline. You still have to pay your taxes by the deadline, or you’ll receive a failure-to-pay penalty. If you did not pay enough in estimated taxes or when filing your extension, you may also be subject to an underpayment penalty.

However, the penalty for filing late is actually ten times more than the late payment penalty. So whether or not you’re able to pay your taxes on time, you should still apply for an extension if you know you’ll be late filing. You can learn how to do so here.

Unfortunately, Maya didn’t file for an extension. (But she will for any future late returns!)

Step #3 - Pick your home state

The IRS isn’t the only institution to dole out bills for late taxes. Most states also charge late filing penalties.

The Keeper calculator will automatically estimate state penalties for you, but to get the exact amount you'll want to go to the tax section of your state government website.

Maya lives in New York, where, just as with the IRS, the penalty charge is 5% of the tax due for each month (or part of the month) that the return is late.

Step #4 -Select your filing status

Select the filing status that applies to you:

  • Single. You file a tax return for only the income you earned or you’re married but are filing separately from your spouse.
  • Married Filing Jointly. You and your spouse file one tax return together for both your incomes.
  • Head Household. You live with qualifying dependents and provide over half the cost of keeping up a home. You file a tax return on your own for only the income you earned

If you select “Single” or “Head of household,” you’ll only have to enter your own income in the next one or two calculator fields.

If you select “Married,” you’ll enter the sum of both your and your spouse’s W-2 and/or 1099 income.

In our example, Maya is a single filer.

Step #5 - Enter your annual W-2 income

This is where you’ll enter the income you earn as a “traditional” employee for a company that sends you a W-2 tax form documenting your earnings from the previous year.

Maya is an office administrator with an annual W-2 income of $50,000.

Step #6 - Input your annual 1099 income

Finally, you’ll enter your annual earnings — minus expenses — from freelancing, contracting, or any other 1099 work you do.

On the side of her W-2 work, Maya runs a small business selling beaded jewelry on Etsy. Last year, she earned $10,000 in 1099 income after deducting business expenses.

Step #7 - Learn how much you’ll owe in late filing penalties

Hit the “Calculate my penalty” button and the calculator will deliver your results.

Rounding off our example, Maya should expect to owe about $638 in penalties.

Now that you’ve got your results, you can turn to the task of filing and paying your late taxes. Luckily, we have a guide just for that!

Understanding your late filing penalty results

Wondering how the calculator determines your late filing penalty? It takes into account these six components:

  1. IRS failure-to-file penalty
  2. State failure-to-file penalty
  3. IRS failure-to-pay penalty
  4. State failure-to-pay penalty
  5. IRS interest penalty
  6. State interest penalty

State penalty calculations vary based on state tax rules. However, here’s how the IRS penalties are determined.

IRS Penalty Calculations

If you file your tax return late… You’ll owe 5% of unpaid taxes for each month/part of a month the tax return is late, with a cap of 25%. (This means that after five months, the penalty will stop increasing.)

If you file and pay your taxes late… Late payments come with a penalty of 0.5% for each month/part of a month the payment is late. However, if you’ve also filed late, both penalties will be combined for a total of 5% per month.

If your return is at least sixty days late… You’ll owe a minimum penalty of $450 or 100% of the tax required to be shown on the return — whichever is less.

(The minimum penalty amount after sixty days will increase to $485 on December 31, 2023. You can find annual penalty updates on the IRS website.)

If you still haven’t filed or paid your taxes after five months… The failure-to-file penalty will cap out at 25%. However, the late payment penalty will continue until you pay your taxes — or until you reach the cap of 25% of your unpaid taxes.

For each month your return and payment are late… You’ll also be charged interest on your unpaid penalty. The IRS updates interest rates each quarter. As of August 2023, the penalty interest rate is 8%.

Late Filing Penalty Example

Turning back to our example of Maya, here’s a breakdown of her $638 late filing penalty.

Penalty Rule Applied Result
IRS failure-to-file penalty Maya’s federal late filing penalty adds up to about $350 (5% * 7 * $1,010) , which is less than than the minimum penalty of $450 penalty at 60 days, so her late filing penalty is $450 $450
State failure-to-file penalty Even though Maya is expecting to get a refund from NY state, the minimum late filing penalty of $100 still applies because the return is more than 60 days late. You can find the latest New York penalties here. $100
IRS failure-to-pay penalty The failure-to-pay penalty is much smaller than the failure-to-file penalty. In this example, Maya will only owe about $35 (.5% * 7 * $1,010) after 7 months on her $1,010 debt to the IRS. $35
State failure-to-file penalty Since Maya was expecting a refund from NY state, there is no failure-to-file penalty applied $0
IRS interest penalty 8% interest on the $1,010 that Maya owes the IRS, spread over 7 months, is about $50 $53
State interest penalty Since Maya was expecting a refund from NY state, there is no interest penalty applied $0

How to avoid penalties for filing taxes late

If you’re filing late this year, keep in mind that you’re not alone. In 2019, the IRS stated that $1.5 billion in tax refunds were sitting unclaimed due to unfiled taxes.

Here are some tips to stay on top of deadlines and avoid penalties for future tax seasons.

Ensure you’re aware of deadlines

The silver lining of tax deadlines is that they’re consistent. The deadline to file and pay your taxes each year is April 15.

If you expect to owe at least $1,000 in self-employment taxes, you’ll have to pay your taxes in four quarterly installments throughout the year.

The deadlines for quarterly taxes fall on:

  • Quarter 1: April 15
  • Quarter 2: June 15
  • Quarter 3: September 15
  • Quarter 4: January 15 (following year)

(If any of these dates fall on a weekend or public holiday, the deadline will move to the following business day.)

Apply for a tax extension

As mentioned earlier, if you know you’re going to need some extra time to file your taxes, you can apply for a tax extension.

This will give you an extra six months to file without accruing any late filing penalties.

However, the extension doesn’t apply to paying your taxes. If you don’t pay by the deadline, you’ll still receive a late payment penalty.

Apply for an IRS payment plan

Luckily, the IRS does offer payment plans that allow people to pay off their tax returns in increments.

Short-term payment plans where you pay off your taxes in less than 180 days are free. Longer-term plans come with a set-up fee — although these are waived for low-income filers.

And the good news is that as long as you stick to your payment plan, you won’t be charged penalties or interest.

Rely on tax software for help

Filing taxes isn’t just unpleasant and potentially expensive. Understanding your taxes in the first place can feel daunting. Some people might just find it easier to put off the overwhelming learning curve.

Using tax software like Keeper can simplify the filing process and support you in deciphering tax forms and complicated IRS rules.

Take a look around Keeper’s other tax-filing resources, too (like this handy income tax calculator or this quarterly tax calculator). And hopefully, by next tax season, you’ll be ready to file with time to spare.

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