In most cases, filing your taxes on time is the best approach. It allows you to avoid penalties relating to late filings or payments, saving you money. However, that doesn’t mean the Internal Revenue Service doesn’t understand that problems don’t arise. There are situations where the IRS does have a heart. Here’s a look at some late tax filing excuses that actually work with the IRS.

Excuses That Actually Work With the IRS

Specific Health Issues

One potential excuse that could cause the IRS to waive any penalties or fees is suffering from health issues, particularly if they’re prolonged and impact your ability to concentrate or harm your short-term memory. That applies to both physical health conditions and mental health conditions, as both can hinder one’s ability to focus or remember to handle tasks.

Usually, you’ll need proof of a suitable diagnosis for this option to work. That can include letters from a qualified medical professional or hospital records, as long as they clearly show the state of your health and its relevant impact.

A Diagnosed IRS Phobia

Similar to the option above, having a formal diagnosis that shows an actual phobia of the IRS could work as a legitimate excuse for filing late. Again, you’ll need proof, such as a letter from a licensed mental health professional. Since the extreme fear that comes with phobias could make filing incredibly challenging, the IRS may be understanding in this situation.

Grieving a Loved One’s Passing

Grief impacts people’s mental soundness, and it could make them forgetful of seemingly mundane activities like filing taxes. Usually, this option only works if you’ve recently lost a loved one that’s clearly close to you, like an immediate family member. Additionally, you might have to provide proof of the person’s passing, such as a death certificate. In some cases, having statements from a licensed grief counselor that show you were struggling also helps.

Stolen or Damaged Records

When you file with the IRS, you need a variety of documents to complete the required forms. Additionally, you may need supplemental paperwork – such as receipts – to support various claims. As a result, if your records were damaged or stolen, the IRS may view that as a legitimate reason for a late filing.

In most cases, you’ll need proof of a relevant incident. As an example, you may need to provide a copy of a police report that shows you were the victim of a burglary or other type of theft. With damaged records, similar formal incident reports are potentially needed. Here’s another example, a report after a house fire by the police or fire department could work.

If records were damaged in a natural disaster, the process is typically easier. The IRS is aware of natural disaster areas, so further proof isn’t always necessary. However, you may still need to submit information to the IRS that shows that’s the reason you’re late.

System Issues

At times, technical issues that prevent filing or payments can help you avoid penalties and fees relating to late filings or payments. For example, an issue with the IRS online filing service on the last filing day could qualify. In some cases, more localized problems – such as a prolonged internet outage in your area on the final filing day – could also be eligible, though you’d need proof of the incident.

Any Other Reasonable Cause

Even if your situation doesn’t align with the points above, the IRS may still waive the penalties and fees on a case-by-case basis. Potentially, any reasonable cause can lead to a positive result. What’s deemed reasonable can vary, and the type of penalty you’re trying to avoid is also a factor the IRS uses to determine whether they waive the fees. Still, it’s worth exploring.

Alternative Approaches You Can Use with the IRS

There are alternative approaches you can use to either avoid a late filing or eliminate the penalties. If you know you won’t be able to file your taxes on time, request an extension. The vast majority of extension requests are approved, and that gives you an additional six months from the last filing date to get your paperwork submitted. Just keep in mind that any money owed that isn’t paid on time can still generate penalties, but you won’t see a failure-to-file fee.

You can also explore first-time abate waivers. These allow filers who missed the deadline the first time to potentially get the fees removed. Essentially, the IRS knows that people can make mistakes, and they allow most filers to have one without charging penalties. While not everyone qualifies, it’s an option that’s worth checking out if you’ve been diligent about filing on time in the past.

Can you think of any other excuses that actually work with the IRS? Have you used one of the options above and want to tell others about your experience? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Read More:

  • 5 Ways to Save Money on Your Taxes
  • This Is How Many Years You Can File Back Taxes
  • Tips for Preparing and Filing Your Small Business Taxes Correctly


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Tamila McDonald
Tamila McDonald

Tamila McDonald has worked as a Financial Advisor for the military for past 13 years. She has taught Personal Financial classes on every subject from credit, to life insurance, as well as all other aspects of financial management. Mrs. McDonald is an AFCPE Accredited Financial Counselor and has helped her clients to meet their short-term and long-term financial goals.