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What's the Penalty for Not Filing My LLC Tax Return?

If you’re an LLC owner who missed the deadline for filing taxes, you’re probably wondering what happens next.

The answer is rather straightforward: The IRS will charge you fees for not filing your LLC tax return. You'll also incur penalties and interest if you fail to pay your tax bill on time. Both business income tax penalties begin the day after your return was due.

Most taxpayers don’t intend to file their taxes late, and there are many good reasons why time might have slipped away from you. While the IRS recognizes that there are occasional stumbling blocks and is willing to work with companies to pay the taxes owed, they are a stickler for deadlines. It’s important to file your tax return as quickly as possible, even if you can’t pay them yet.

How does the IRS calculate penalties for not filing LLC taxes?

There are two parts to filing your LLC taxes.

The first is filing the actual tax return. The second is the payment of the taxes owed.

If you don’t do these by the IRS’s deadlines, there are two different penalties that you’ll be charged.

Failure to file your taxes

If you fail to file your tax return with the IRS by the due date, the IRS will charge you 5% of the unpaid taxes every month until you’ve submitted your income tax return. The total penalty will not exceed 25% of your unpaid taxes, however.

If you haven’t filed your tax return within sixty days of the deadline, the minimum penalty for failure to file is $210. If the amount of taxes you owe is less than that amount, the penalty is 100% of your total tax bill.

Failure to pay your taxes

If you file your federal tax return paperwork but you can’t or haven’t paid your tax bill on time, the IRS will charge you 0.5% of your unpaid taxes every month until you’ve reached the maximum penalty of 25%.

If you fail to file your tax return and haven’t paid any taxes due by the due date, the maximum charged per month for both penalties is 5%. In all cases, penalties will be capped at 25% of the year’s tax bill.

The longer you wait to meet the filing requirement, the more you’ll owe in penalties. Additionally, failure to file and pay your LLC taxes is a federal crime. The IRS has a set administrative penalty schedule in place for late filing, but the longer you wait to file, the greater the risk of potential civil or criminal penalties for failure to pay on time.

What to do if you can’t file your LLC taxes on time

Limited liability companies, or LLCs, have a choice on how to file their taxes. The default method is for your LLC to be taxed as a sole proprietorship or a partnership. This means any income your LLC earned will “pass through” to your personal finances and be reported on your personal tax return as self-employment income. You would file your LLC tax return on April 15 (or the following business day, if the 15th falls on a weekend) of every year.

You can, however, decide to be taxed as a corporation instead. If you elect corporate status for your LLC, you are expected to file a corporate tax return by March 15 of the year.

As an LLC, you are also expected to make quarterly estimated tax payments on April 15, June 15, September 15, and January 15. If you fail to make quarterly estimated tax payments, you may be subject to additional penalties.

Whether you’re filing by April 15 or March 15, if you know ahead of time that you won’t meet the tax deadline, you do have some options to help mitigate penalties.

If you are working to clean up your accounting, manage situations in your personal life, or have encountered other circumstances that will inevitably delay your tax filing, you can request a business tax extension from the IRS. To request an LLC tax extension, complete and submit tax form 4868. The IRS recognizes there may be a reasonable cause for late filing.

With the extension, you’ll have an additional six months to complete and file your LLC tax forms. It’s worth noting that filing an LLC tax extension gives you six months to submit the paperwork without penalty. The IRS still expects you to pay the tax due on time, however.

If you’ve been paying your quarterly tax payments throughout the year, complete the payment by April 15 to avoid late payment fees—those begin accruing after that deadline even if you’ve received a tax filing extension.

Once you’ve submitted for a tax filing extension from the IRS, use that extension time wisely. Organize your receipts, clean up your accounting, and develop a financial system that will make it easier to manage your bookkeeping going forward to avoid being in this situation again in the future.

If you haven’t filed your tax return before the extension deadline, the same late penalties you hoped to avoid will be assessed.

What to do if you’re already late on your LLC taxes

If the tax filing deadline has come and gone, the opportunity to request an extension from the IRS has come and gone along with it. The IRS assigned financial penalties the day after your taxes were due, so if you didn’t file, the clock is ticking, and your tax bill is increasing.

Fortunately, you can stop both by taking control of your tax situation and paying your back taxes as quickly as possible. In some cases, the IRS may approve a tax penalty abatement if you act in good faith with the organization.

Why should you file back taxes?

If you’ve gotten very behind on your LLC taxes, it may seem appealing to just wait it out and hope it somehow goes away. Spoiler alert: it won’t go away.

If you fail to file your federal income tax return or pay your LLC taxes, the IRS will simply calculate what they consider to be your taxes for you. If you fail to pay penalty amounts that the IRS thinks you should, you will be subject to potential criminal charges as well.

If you fail to file your LLC tax return, the IRS is going to estimate what it thinks you owe based on what’s called a substitute for return. A substitute for return tallies up what the IRS thinks you likely owe in taxes based on the information it can find in your bank account records, wages you’ve paid out to employees, and contractor payments you’ve made.

The amount due that the IRS tallies is based entirely on revenue—which means the tax figure they determine is likely substantially higher than the amount you actually owe. That’s because their calculation doesn’t take into account any of your expenses, tax deductions, or tax credits that you could be eligible for. If you fail to file a return—even years later—and just pay what the IRS calculates, you could be paying a tremendously inflated dollar amount.

Filing your back taxes does two things.

The first is that you stop the more expensive of the two IRS penalties, the failure-to-file penalty. Once you’ve filed taxes— even if they’re late—you won’t continue to be charged the 5% penalty for failure to file.

The second thing that happens when you file your LLC back taxes is you can let the IRS know how much money you legitimately owe in taxes and subsequent fees. This amount is almost certainly less than the estimated amount calculated by the IRS.

When you file your taxes, you’ll be able to include the various tax deductions and credits you’re eligible for, which can substantially lower your tax burden. This number will be significantly lower than the tax figure calculated by the IRS as a substitution return, and the corrected tax figure will also be the basis for all penalties you’ve incurred, reducing that amount as well.

How do you start?

If your taxes have gotten away from you, it can be daunting to try and wrangle them back into control. Before you can do any tax filing, however, you must do your bookkeeping. Your first step to regaining the upper hand on taxes is to catch up on your entries of receipts, payments, expenses and other business-related financials to sort out your actual tax obligation.

Once your books are updated with the correct financial information for previous years, filing a tax return is straightforward. You’ll have all the correct numbers readily available.

Sometimes, however, sorting through all the financial documents and numbers amassed over a long period of time can be daunting. Working with an expert can make this process faster and more comfortable for many business owners.

Specialized experts like Bench Retro can handle the entire process on your behalf to get you up to date and ready to file all missing back taxes. Bench can even help you with the tax filing, freeing up your time to continue looking forward in your business, while we handle looking back.

What happens if you don’t file taxes at all?

If you don’t file your taxes at all, you can expect the IRS to alert you to the oversight in increasingly direct ways. All communication from the IRS will happen through traditional mail. Any threatening calls or emails are tax scams, so be wary.

You’ll get reminder letters.

The first communication you get from the IRS will be a simple reminder letter about your tax liability. This letter will outline the penalties that will apply and offer you contact information to notify the IRS about your intent to file and pay. You can expect subsequent letters to arrive until the matter is resolved.

You’ll start incurring penalties.

Penalties start immediately after you fail to file or pay. Subsequent communication from the IRS will include mention of these accruing penalties.

Your assets may be levied.

If you fail to file for an extended period, the IRS may decide to get their money where they can and levy your assets. The IRS will file a tax lien, or a claim of ownership, on business property or other business bank accounts and extract the value of your unpaid taxes through these alternate means.

The IRS will file for you.

If it’s been two or three years since you filed your LLC taxes, the IRS will file a substitute return for you. This return will not include any deductions, credits, write-offs, or exemptions and will likely result in a large tax and penalty bill.

There might be legal consequences.

The IRS has several crimes that are tied to failure to file and pay taxes. If you are willfully evading taxes, you may be faced with federal charges that can be punished with up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

How Bench can help

Filing your taxes requires updating your books. That’s where Bench can help. We are America’s largest professional bookkeeping service for small businesses. As dedicated bookkeepers, we can handle the numbers and tax filings on your behalf so that you can focus on running your business rather than filling out IRS paperwork.

If you’ve gotten very behind filing your taxes, our specialized team of historical bookkeepers, Bench Retro, can help you clean up your bookkeeping fast, allowing you to file missing tax returns, stop penalties, and get back in good standing with the IRS.

We’ll help you determine the right taxable income, find all applicable tax deductions and credits, lower your tax bill, and set you up for success in future tax years as well. We can even file your taxes for you.

Learn more about how Bench works.

The bottom line

Life happens and deadlines race by, even when we have the best of intentions. If you are close to or have missed the LLC tax deadline, it’s worth it to be proactive.

Do the work to file your back taxes. You’ll likely reduce the amount you owe in penalties. You’ll clean up your bookkeeping. And you’ll be right on track for future tax payments and filings.

What's Bench?

We're an online bookkeeping service powered by real humans. Bench gives you a dedicated bookkeeper supported by a team of knowledgeable small business experts. We’re here to take the guesswork out of running your own business—for good. Your bookkeeping team imports bank statements, categorizes transactions, and prepares financial statements every month. Get started with a free month of bookkeeping.


This post is to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, business, or tax advice. Each person should consult his or her own attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in this post. Bench assumes no liability for actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.

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