IRS Form 15103: Why and How to Complete It

May 5, 2024 | Tax Relief | Unfiled Tax returns

IRS Form 15103: Why Did I Get This Form and How Do I Complete It?

Sometimes, it can be hard to know if you are required to file a tax return or not. However, if you don’t file a return and the IRS thinks that you should have filed, the agency will send you a notice. This often comes in the form of a CP59, CP516, CP518, or similar notice, along with Form 15103. If this happens, are you in trouble and what do you do? The short answer is that there’s usually no need to panic, as long as you act promptly to complete Form 15103 and send it back to the IRS. Depending on your situation, you may be able to do this yourself. But if you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact the Timothy S. Hart Law Group, P.C. for additional help.

An Overview of Form 15103

IRS Form 15103, Form 1040 Return Delinquency, is a tax form you use to respond to the IRS when they send you a notice indicating they’re missing one or more tax returns from you. You’ll typically use Form 15103 to inform the IRS that you’ve already filed the missing tax returns, are now providing the missing tax returns, or explain why you aren’t required to file a tax return.

Why Do I Need to File Form 15103 With the IRS?

It might seem unnecessary to complete Form 15103, especially if you know for sure that you aren’t required to file a tax return or pay any taxes for the applicable tax year. However, this seemingly annoying form is a necessary hassle because the IRS imposes penalties for not filing tax returns.   If you owe taxes for a given tax year, but don’t file the necessary tax returns, the IRS can impose various penalties, including a failure-to-file penalty, which gets added to the failure-to-pay penalty. The failure-to-file penalty is 5% of any unpaid tax balance for each month it goes unpaid. There’s a maximum failure-to-file penalty of 25% of the tax balance, but the IRS will also charge interest on the unpaid taxes and penalties.   But what about situations where you don’t owe taxes? First, realize that you may be legally required to file a tax return even if you don’t owe any tax. If so, you should file your tax return as soon as you receive this notice from the IRS. If you aren’t required to file a return, use Form 15103 to explain why you don’t have to file a return. If you don’t tell the IRS why you didn’t file a tax return (and they think you owe taxes), the IRS will eventually issue a substitute for return to assess taxes against you. Then, they can begin collection actions to collect the tax debt they believe you owe. This could result in tax levies or liens. Whenever possible, you want to avoid a substitute for return because they generally overstate your tax liability.   For instance, the IRS is likely not going to apply certain deductions or credits you might be eligible for. After all, the IRS doesn’t know what you don’t tell them, so the substitute for return they prepare for you will almost assuredly be incomplete. This is a big deal because these missing deductions and/or credits might be the reason why you don’t owe any taxes for a given year. But now the IRS believes you do because of the substitute for return and will go after you for not paying the taxes you “owe.” So sooner or later, you’ll need to explain to the IRS why you don’t owe them anything. It’s also easier (and a lot less stressful) to do this with Form 15103 and/or by filing the missing return than it is to stop the IRS from garnishing your wages or taking money from your bank account.

How to Complete Form 15103

How to fill out the 15103 form depends on your specific situation. If you already filed the returns the IRS says they haven’t received from you, you’ll complete the relevant section of Form 15103. It’s fairly straightforward and in addition to providing information about the missing returns, you should attach a copy of the return(s) you already filed.   If the taxpayer with the missing return has died, there’s a section on From 15103 to note that. You’ll also need to tell the IRS that Form 1041, Income Tax Return for Estates and Trusts has already been filed and provide the basic information about that return so the IRS can confirm it’s been filed.   Finally, there’s completing Form 15103 if you don’t believe you need to file a tax return. Most likely, there will be a box for you to check to tell the IRS why you didn’t need to file the return. Besides checking the appropriate box, you’ll need to write out your reasoning in the space provided (or add another page if you need extra space).

Filing Form 15103 With the IRS

You can usually file Form 15103 in two ways. One is to mail it using the address listed on the IRS notice or letter telling you about the missing return. The second way is to use the fax number located on that letter or notice from the IRS. Keep in mind that there could be a stub that’s part of the IRS notice or letter that you should include with Form 15103 when you file it.

When Form 15103 Isn’t Required

If the IRS thinks you’re missing a tax return, sending a completed 15103 form to the IRS is usually the correct way to respond. But there are two situations where you don’t need to do this. The first situation is if you filed the applicable tax returns within the last eight weeks. In this case, you don’t need to complete Form 15103, as most likely the IRS received the tax returns soon after it sent you the CP518, CP516, or CP59 notice. Just to be safe, you should follow up with the IRS to check on the status of your return. A quick and easy way to do this if you’re expecting a refund is to use the IRS’ Refund Status online tool. Otherwise, set up an online account with the IRS and use that to see if they’ve received your return.   The second situation is if the notice you received has a telephone number that you can call to explain your situation. If you want to use a telephone call instead of Form 15103, make sure you have all the information and documentation necessary to support your position before making the call.

Need Help With IRS Form 15103?

Sometimes the IRS sends you Form 15103 because of missing returns that are fairly straightforward to prepare. A few hours with some tax preparation software or dropping off your tax documents with a tax preparer at your local strip mall is all you need to do.   Other times, your missing returns could be complicated and challenging to prepare. Then there are scenarios where you haven’t filed your tax returns because you’re afraid that you’ll end up with a large tax bill you can’t pay. In either situation, it might be a good idea to get in touch with the Timothy S. Hard Law Group. You can call us at (518) 213-3445, (917) 382-5142, or use our online contact form. We’re ready to help, especially when figuring out how to pay otherwise unmanageable tax balances. We can see if an offer in compromise, payment plan, penalty relief, or another option will work for you.        

Attorney Timothy Hart

Timothy S Hart, the founding partner of the tax law firm of Timothy S. Hart Law Group, P.C. is both a New York Tax Lawyer & Certified Public Accountant. His area of expertise includes innovative solutions to solve your Internal Revenue Service and New York State tax problems, including tax settlements through the Federal and New York State offer in compromise programs, filing unfiled tax returns, voluntary disclosures, tax audits, and criminal investigations. [ Attorney Bio ]