Taxpayer asks:

Any site that you can provide related to the statute of limitations of unpaid individual income taxes? The tax periods in question are from 1982 – 1987.

Taxgirl says:

This is actually a tricky question because so many things need to be taken into account. Here are some general principles:

  1. Under IRC section 6501(a), the statute of limitations (SOL) for assessment of taxes expires three (3) years from the due date of the return or the date that you file, whichever is later. An extension of the due date for filing the return does not change the date the SOL starts to run.
  2. If you fail to file, the statute never starts to run. In other words, there is no SOL, and taxes can be assessed at any time.
  3. If you file a false or fraudulent return or are willfully attempting to evade tax, the statute also doesn’t run. In these cases, the tax may be assessed or collected at any time.
  4. If you substantially understate your gross income (more than 25%), the SOL is extended to six (6) years.
  5. With respect to collections, the IRS generally has ten (10) years after the date of the assessment of tax or levy to collect. That applies to assessments made after November 5, 1990. For some of the years you’ve referenced, it’s a bit more complicated because the laws are different for those pre-November 5, 1990 years.

You should know that there are all kinds of exceptions and special circumstances that can result in changes to the SOL. For example, if you’ve been outside of the US for a significant period of time or agreed to an extension with IRS, your SOL deadlines may be different. When in doubt, check out the Tax Code. In this case, you’ll want to review §6501 and following. Of course, most taxpayers don’t love reading the Tax Code and leave that to the tax geeks. You should absolutely consult with a knowledgeable tax pro for more information about your specific situation.

Before you go: be sure to read my disclaimer. Remember, I’m a lawyer and we love disclaimers.
If you have a question, here’s how to Ask The Taxgirl.

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Kelly Erb is a tax attorney, tax writer and podcaster.


  1. Actually the 10 yr SOL for collections can run when you don’t file. It runs when there is an assessment from an IRS filed SFR (substitute for return).

  2. Phillip D Redo Reply

    I owe back taxes for 1999 and 2000 I filed the 1040 form as required howdo I find out if either one is past the date for collections I have Parkinsons have been on disablity Social securty since 2001 and donot have any money to pay the monies owed and would like to get this straighten this out The IRS have been call me as uncollectable. If I need to contact you and get you to help me as a client let me know the cost me



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