Failure to File versus Failure to Pay

You’ve most likely read, or heard, this numerous times about filing federal taxes: The IRS charges penalties if you don’t file on time, or if you don’t pay your amount due. While this is very much true, you also should know that if you need more time to file a return, you can always file a tax extension. But with a tax extension, you know that it only extends your time to file, and you’re still responsible for paying any owed tax on time.

So no matter how you approach your taxes, you’re slapped with a penalty if you don’t file, and you’re still hit with a penalty if you gain more time to file, but don’t pay on time. And you might be asking yourself, “What’s the difference between failing to file, and failing to pay?”


Well, good friends, failure-to-file means exactly how it sounds - not filing your return by the tax deadline. The penalty? Normally, a charge of 5% of the unpaid taxes is applied for each month or part of the month your return is late; this can go up to 25% of your unpaid tax. And if you’re bold enough to have your taxes more than 60 days late, you’ll owe the IRS $135 or 100% of your unpaid tax at minimum.

Now there may be some of you thinking, “I don’t the owe the IRS any taxes, they owe me a refund!” While that could be true, you filing late isn’t going to bring that refund check in any sooner. Plus, you’re building a bad rapport with the IRS as a late filer. And as spoken by one the great musical artists of our time, “Hey why you wanna go and do that?”

And one more thing to ponder, just because you didn’t owe the IRS any taxes last year, doesn’t mean things will automatically be the same for the following year. Taxes are introduced, passed, and vetoed more times than we’re actually aware. Not to mention that any change to your employment, business, location, marital status, or family size could also affect your taxes.


Even if you successfully file an extension and receive extra time, you’ll incur this penalty if you don’t pay any owed taxes, also known as an estimated tax liability, before your original due date. The penalty charge is generally 0.5% of the unpaid tax each month late, and continues until 25% of your estimated tax has been paid. There are many different options available to pay your taxes on time, and for more information, be sure to view these blogs:

Something You Might Not Know: If you filed an extension, and were able to pay at least 90% of your estimated tax before the original deadline, you’re allowed to pay the last 10% by the extended deadline without incurring any failure-to-pay penalties.

Tag-Team Charges

If you think you can only be charged one penalty, and not the other, then you’re thinking wrong. It is possible for both charges to incur in the same month; however, the 5% charge of the failure-to-file penalty is reduced to the 0.5% charge of the failure-to-pay penalty. But if your return is more than two months late, you’re still charged a minimum of $135 or 100% of your unpaid tax.
Of course, if you can provide reasonable cause to either filing or paying late, you could waive your penalties. Consider contacting a tax professional to inquire about reasonable causes.

Don’t find yourself having to face down IRS penalties, e-file your tax extension quickly and easily with ExpressExtension. We offer extensions for personal, business, and exempt organization tax returns. You can even submit payment for estimated taxes through ExpressExtension with our Electronic Funds Withdrawal (EFW) option.

For assistance with e-filing your tax extension or electronically paying your estimated tax liability, contact our live professionals located at Rock Hill, South Carolina at (803) 514-5155 (Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. - 6 p.m, EST), or email us at or live chat with us at

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