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Filing taxes late: No worries if zero owed

The IRS expects to process 149 million returns

The IRS expects to process 149 million returns from individuals this year. Credit: istock

Here's a little secret for all you procrastinators: The IRS doesn't like to talk about it, but as long as you don't owe any taxes, there is no penalty for filing after April 15.

The late penalty is usually 5 percent of the unpaid taxes for each month -- or part of a month -- a return is late. That can add up quickly. But what if the unpaid taxes are zero? Five percent of zero is . . . zero!

However, if you wait more than three years to file, you forfeit any refund. So maybe it's better to file on time. Besides, if you're getting a refund, why wait?

The IRS expects to process 149 million returns from individuals this year, including from those who file for six-month extensions. About a quarter of returns are usually filed in the last three weeks before Tax Day.

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