Explainer: Filing Your Taxes From Behind Bars In A Prison

Explainer: Filing Your Taxes From Behind Bars In A Prison

For most of us, the deadline to file our taxes feels like it’s right around the corner. We’re getting our W2s or 1099s in the mail. We’re seeing those little tables set up at the front of the grocery store offering to help you with your tax return. And we’re hearing more advertisements on the radio, watching more commercials on television and even seeing more billboards from companies offer to help, too.

Some of us sit down at those tables or call the phone numbers on those ads, commercials and billboards. Some of us hire accountants or lawyers. And some of us just do our taxes ourselves. Either way, it’s not an easy process. And it’s even harder when you’re trying to do your taxes from behind bars. Here is some helpful information if you’re helping your loved one file their taxes from prison.

Prepare for prison by setting up a power of attorney to let someone else handle your financials.
Image courtesy of designer491 on iStock via Getty Images.

When are your taxes due if you’re in prison?

Even if you’re in jail or prison, your taxes are due on the same date as everyone else. This year, that due date is Tuesday, April 18th. Usually, the deadline is April 15th. But, by law, the deadline can’t fall on a weekend or a holiday. This year, the 15th falls on a Saturday. And Monday, April 17th, is Washington D.C.’s Emancipation Day, so the deadline is pushed back to the 18th.

If you’re in jail or prison but expecting to be released at some point during the year, you can request an extension to file your taxes. If you choose to do so, you don’t have to file your tax return until Monday, October 16th. That basically gives you another six months to file. To take advantage of this extension, you can use this form: Form 4868: Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

What happens if you don’t file your taxes?

In general, if you don’t file your taxes on time, you will probably face monetary penalties. The penalty for failing to file your tax return is 5% of the unpaid taxes for each month the return is late up to 25% of your unpaid taxes. If you fail to file and fail to pay, the total combined penalty is still 5%. But if you engage in tax fraud or another crime with respect to your taxes, jail or prison time is possible as well.

For many people in jail or prison, however, filing taxes is not required. The catch here is that your total income must fall below the IRS minimum-income requirement. In 2022, for example, you might not need to file a tax return if you’re single, less than 65 years old, don’t have any special circumstances (like self-employment income) and earn less than $12,950 over the course of the year.

People who can't pay court fines often end up back in prison.
Image courtesy of Jirapong Manustrong via iStockphotos.com.

Is there anyone that can help you file your taxes in prison?

Yes. There are, of course accountants and attorneys that you can hire to help you with your taxes — even if you’re in prison. But if those options aren’t available to you, you can also consider getting help from a jailhouse lawyer or giving power of attorney to someone on the outside to help. No matter who you get help from, however, you are still responsible for the accuracy and timeliness of your tax return.

The Takeaway:

We’re only a couple of months away from the deadline to file your 2022 tax returns. This year, that deadline falls on Tuesday, April 18th. If you can’t file your taxes from jail or prison on or before that date, you can request a six-month extension. You can also get help from an accountant, an attorney, a jailhouse lawyer or someone your trust on the outside. If your 2022 income was low enough, you may not have to file a tax return at all.

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