Best Way to File 2024 Taxes: Discover How Far Back You Can Go

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Written By kevin

A financial strategist with a knack for demystifying taxes and insurance, Kevin distills complex concepts into actionable advice.

The 2024 tax filing season is here. As Americans prepare their 2023 tax returns, it’s important to understand key deadlines, how to file taxes for previous years if needed, and best practices for accurate filing. This detailed guide provides everything you need to know to maximize tax refunds and avoid issues with the IRS when you file your 2024 taxes.

When Do I Need to File My 2024 Taxes?

The first critical deadline to be aware of is the federal income tax filing deadline.

Federal Tax Filing Deadline

  • The federal income tax return filing deadline is April 15, 2024 for most taxpayers. If you live in Maine or Massachusetts, you have until April 17, 2024 due to local holidays.
  • You can file a tax extension by April 15 to push your deadline back to October 15, 2024. However, any federal taxes owed are still due on April 15, even with an extension.
  • Taxpayers in federally declared disaster areas may receive additional time to file returns and pay taxes. Disaster victims should check the IRS disaster relief page for updated filing extensions.

When Should I File My State Taxes?

While most states have an April 15 tax deadline, over 10 states have later filing deadlines, most commonly April 18. Check your state’s department of revenue website to confirm your state’s income tax filing due date before submitting your return.

Filing Back Taxes

When preparing your 2024 tax return, you may realize you failed to file returns for previous years. The IRS requires taxpayers to have filed returns for the current tax year and the prior 6 years to be compliant.

However, in some cases the IRS can audit returns from older than 6 years ago if they suspect substantial errors or omissions. And you typically have 3 years from the original deadline to claim any tax refunds owed to you.

So while you are only required to file the last 6 years of back taxes, you may need to file further back to claim refunds or correct issues.

Why Should I File Back Taxes?

Here are the main reasons to file taxes for previous years:

  • Avoid penalties and legal issues: The failure to file penalty is 5% per month of unpaid taxes, up to 25%. Filing back returns and paying owed taxes stops these penalties from growing larger. You also avoid criminal charges.
  • Claim tax refunds: You have 3 years to claim any refund owed by filing a back tax return. Otherwise that money goes away.
  • Fix Filing Issues: Perhaps you made a mistake that led to penalties or a tax audit. Filing corrected returns fixes the problems.
  • Qualify for Tax Credits: If you recently had a baby, bought a home, or lost a spouse, filing back returns claims credits and deductions you qualify for.

How Do I File Back Taxes?

Follow these key steps to file back taxes correctly:

  1. Gather Documents – Find old W2s, 1099s, pay stubs, and expense records. Request IRS tax transcripts if documents were lost.
  2. Choose Correct Forms – Get prior years’ federal and state tax return forms. The longer ago, the harder finding old forms can be.
  3. Complete the Forms – Fill in the forms accurately with your income, deductions and credits for each prior year.
  4. Pay Owed Taxes – Calculate taxes owed for each year and pay in full to avoid penalties. The IRS offers payment plans.

Be sure to mail your back tax returns via certified mail or registered mail so you have proof it was received. The process for filing back taxes can be complex, so consider hiring a tax professional experienced with prior unfiled returns.

Best Practices For Filing Your 2024 Taxes

Follow these recommendations from tax experts when filing your 2023 taxes this season:

File Electronically

E-filing your tax return through IRS e-file is highly recommended over paper filing.

Benefits of e-filing include:

  • Faster processing and refunds (within 21 days via direct deposit)
  • More accurate with error checking features
  • Secure transmission of sensitive financial data
  • Confirmation provided when IRS accepts your return
  • Ability to track status of your refund

Most taxpayers can file federal returns electronically for free through IRS Free File. You may have to pay a small fee for state e-filing.

Use Tax Preparation Software

Using DIY tax software to prepare and file your return makes the process smoother. Tax software like TurboTax and H&R Block:

  • Guides you through questions to determine income, deductions, credits etc.
  • Runs error checks for mistakes before filing
  • Does the math calculations so you get accurate totals
  • Files the forms electronically when you finish

For simple tax situations, free tax software is available. But you may have to upgrade for a fee if you have investments, rental property, freelance income etc.

Review Carefully Before Submission

Before hitting submit on that e-filed return, be sure to review carefully for any errors. Specifically double check:

  • Math computations on any deductions or credits
  • Investment and income information tied to 1099s
  • Personal details like birth date and Social Security number

Catching innocent mistakes at this stage prevents delays receiving refunds or problems with IRS records down the line.

Pay On Time If Taxes Are Owed

If you owe 2023 income taxes to the IRS and/or state tax authorities, be sure to pay in full by April 15, 2024. Consider:

  • Pay via IRS Direct Pay or Electronic Funds Withdrawal when e-filing
  • Pay as much as possible by April 15, then arrange a payment plan
  • Use IRS Online Payment Agreement tool for installments if needed

Waiting to pay owed taxes results in failure to pay penalties starting at 0.5% per month. Paying on time avoids penalty fees and bad marks on your credit.


The key takeaways for smoothly filing your 2024 taxes include:

  • Know the Deadlines – Federal taxes are due April 15, state taxes may vary
  • Gather Back Records – File taxes and claim refunds for up to prior 3 years
  • E-File & Use Software – More accurate, faster refunds
  • Review Carefully – Correct mistakes first to avoid issues
  • Pay On Time – Avoid penalties and interest

Following these best practices will lead to accurate tax filings, maximize any refunds owed, and prevent problems with the IRS like audits and penalties. Filing taxes can be complex, so seek assistance from a tax professional if needed.

Categories Tax