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Avoid Fees - When using long-term investments as a money-earning vehicle, it is wise to remember that any returns that are made on that money must deduct any fees paid...

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2005 Tax Filing

Oh, dear, you just got back from the mailbox clutching an official manila envelope from the IRS. In that envelope is a computer form letter claiming that Uncle Sam has not received your tax return for 2005.

Gee whiz, holy cow, what's happening ... it's 2010, how do they expect you to remember what you were doing on April 14, 2006? You're sure you filed that return, you file them every year, right? Right! You must have filed it because if you didn't file it or it got lost in the mail or it got stolen by gremlins or it go eaten by paper moths, they would have hit you up for it long before now, right?

Wrong. The IRS moves in mysterious ways and some of those moves occur very slowly. So it is entirely possible that your return got lost in the mail and they're only notifying you about it now. If that's the case, and you keep copies of your returns, just make a copy of the copy (in case they lose it again) and send it to them. You may, or may not, be liable for interest and penalties on what you owe them but if, like many Americans, they owe you money -- i.e. a tax refund -- you won't suffer because of the mishap.

Even if, on the other hand, 2006 slipped through the cracks and came and went without you filing a return for the 2005 tax year, there's still no reason to panic. Just get your W2s, 1099s, receipts, medical bills, etc. together, fill out the 2005 forms (the IRS is even nice enough to make downloads of previous years forms available on their website, www.IRS.gov) and fill them in a relatively short time after you get the notice (say, 45 days.) Again, what if any extra financial pain you will suffer from the failure to file on time will depend on your total income, taxable income, deductions, exemptions, etc. but you won't go to jail for it.

The thing to remember about all situations like this is that the Internal Revenue Service doesn't want your body (even if you're cuter than hell), it wants your money. Putting you in the slam and spending money to keep you fed just because you forgot to send in the papers one year, isn't part of their game plan unless you refuse to file the missing return once they demand it and/or refuse to pay the amount due on that return.

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