Deadlines and Resources for Filing a Late 2011 Tax Return

Mirror Lake at Yosemite National Park, California
Mirror Lake at Yosemite National Park, California. © Michael H Spivak / Getty Images

If you, or someone you know, still needs to file a tax return for the year 2011, listen up. There is an important deadline approaching.

Individuals who haven't yet filed their tax return for the year 2011 have until April 15, 2015, to file and receive their federal tax refund. Why? Because the IRS can issue refunds only if a tax return is filed within three years of the original filing deadline. This is due to the statute of limitations on receiving refunds.

Since the original deadline for filing a year 2011 return was April 15, 2011, the three year deadline is April 15, 2014.

Speaking of refunds, the IRS estimates that 1,117,900 people have not yet filed a tax return for 2011, and that their refunds could total $1,041,576,000. Half the people are due refunds more than $698, the IRS estimates.

April 15, 2015, is also the last day to correct one's Social Security earnings history with the Social Security Administration for the year 2011. For example, a sole proprietor filing a Schedule C will need to file his or her year 2011 Form 1040 and Schedule C with the IRS on or before April 15, 2015, so that the self-employment earnings can be added to the person's earnings history for Social Security purposes. It's a good idea to check a person's Social Security Statement to see if the total earnings for 2011 matches the total of all Social Security wages from W-2 forms and from Schedule SE self-employment tax form.

Missing W-2 income, for example, needs to be corrected by April 15th.

As long as a year 2011 tax return is postmarked on or before April 15, 2015, the IRS can issue a refund. What if a return is postmarked after that date? The refund expires. The refund cannot be sent to the taxpayer. Nor can the expired refund be used to pay down taxes owed for other years.

The federal government simply keeps the expired refund.

It is recommended to mail the 2011 tax return by certified mail with return receipt, and it's a good idea to mail it before the April 15th deadline just to be on the safe side. One could also hand-deliver the tax return to a local IRS office and request a photocopy of the first page of the tax return be stamped as received.

The general process for filing a late tax return goes like this:

Be aware that it takes approximately six weeks for the IRS to process late tax returns and issue refunds.

As long as your return is filed on or before the April 15, 2015, deadline, the IRS will be able to mail out a refund check regardless of how long it takes them to process your tax return.

The "Filing Past Due Tax Returns" page on the IRS Web site discusses many of the concerns people have about filing late. That page discusses the benefits of filing tax returns, payment options, the sorts of enforcement programs the IRS operates.

Quick links to some common year 2011 forms, instructions and publications in PDF format:

Form 1040 (2011)Instructions for Form 1040 (2011)
Form 1040A (2011)Instructions for Form 1040A (2011)
Form 1040EZ (2011)Instructions for Form 1040EZ (2011)
Form 1040NR (2011)Instructions for Form 1040NR (2011)
Form 1040-X (amended return, any year)Instructions for Form 1040-X
Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax
Archive of all federal tax forms, publications and instructions for the year 2011 on