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A long time friend of mine told me that she has not filed tax retuns in over 40 years.

South Deerfield, MA |

Now, she is going to retire and is afraid she wil not be able to get her social security checks. What can she do. Will she be arrested? Go to jail? What can she do about this at this late time in her life?

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I have dealt with these issues many times over the years. The issue of unfiled tax returns really doesn't mean going back more than the current year plus 7 years as a policy stated by both the IRS and the Commonwealth of Mass. They have the right to go back more but as a practical matter they don't. Criminal doesn't usaully come into play either if she voluntarily files the returns for the periods mentioned. If her social security comes from wages paid to her then she gets that whether or not she files. If it comes from self-employment income which she nver paid self-employment taxes on, she may not have social security at all since she hasn't paid in to the system. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND she seek legal counsel on this ASAP.

I'd be happy to help or she can find someone locally perhaps.

Eric P. Rothenberg, P.C.
160 Gould Street-Suite 320
Needham, MA 02494-2300
Tel: 781-239-8900
Fax: 781-658-2203

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Angie Lee Smith

Angie Lee Smith


Actually it is only 6 years per IRM & Policy statement 5-133, but also with exceptions past 6 years.

Eric P Rothenberg

Eric P Rothenberg


Yes and with a 40 year hsitory of non-compliance, one might expect that?


She needs to discuss this with a tax lawyer right away. Tell her not to talk about this with anyone, including and accountant or tax preparer. She needs a tax lawyer for attorney- client confidentiality.

I hope this helps!
Ron Cappuccio

If you do not like this answer or disagree, please look at one of the other answers provided. It is not necessary for you to try prove this answer is "wrong" or something with which you do not agree. This is a free service for you based on limited facts. Nevertheless, many times you need to consult an attorney with the details to get actual advice specific to your concerns. Do not put too many details in your questions or comments because this makes the information public and could hurt you. Government Regulations contained in IRS Circular 230 regulate written communications about Federal tax matters, including e-mail, between us and our clients. This is another attempt by the government to limit your rights and to extend the control of government over individuals and businesses. Nevertheless, such communications are either opinions or other written communications. This is not an opinion. It is other written communication and was not written to be relied upon, by itself, to avoid any tax penalties. In order to receive assurances of protection from tax penalties from a written communication, you should get an opinion letter. If you would like to discuss an opinion letter relating to any matter, please contact me and I will explain what is involved and what it will cost.


Your friend will not go to jail or be arrested. It may take a moment or two to determine if she needs to file back tax returns but this is a problem that can easily be addressed. She'll be best advised to use a professional.

Good luck.

Evan A. Nielsen is licensed to practice law in California and handles federal tax matters throughout the U.S. The information provided here is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice for a particular matter. This response does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, please consult an attorney.


Your friend needs to see a tax attorney as soon as possible.


I cannot comment on the state of Mass. but actually IRS Policy statement 5-133 states that you normally do not have to file returns past six (6) years (NOT 7). Enforcement beyond such period will not be undertaken without prior managerial approval. Also, if delinquency procedures are not to be enforced for the full six (6) year period of delinquency, prior managerial approval must be secured. So, in most cases you only need to file the last 6 years returns UNLESS a Revenue Officer's Manager approves a request for past than 6 years.

You can read more about this in the IRS's IRM section & also Policy statement 5-133. If you have any additional questions please feel free to contact Taxsmith at 888.741.0272 or at

THESE COMMENTS ARE NOT LEGAL ADVICE. They are provided for informational purposes only. Actual legal advice can only be provided after consultation by an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. The answer to question does not create an attorney-client relationship or otherwise require further consultation. Ms. Smith is licensed to practice law throughout the state of Florida with offices in Duval County. She is authorized to handle IRS matters throughout the United States. Her phone number is 888-741-0272 and her email address is

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