Q: Residence outside US , neither taxes paid nor pension collected, senior with handicap Can i return without arrest?
Can i reclaim pension and find pro bono help? I am 76 , alone, and have no earnings, I left in 2007
A: Assuming everything you say will stand the bright lights of the IRS/FBI/Treasury background checks, you do not sound like a candidate for a suite at the Grey Bar Hotel. However, you may still have to deal with paying some hefty portion of the total amount of taxes, penalties and interest accrued over the entire time you were having fun--deducted monthly from your "reclaimed" pension, if you ever get it. Given enough chronological and financial facts, any lawyer who can do simple math could calculate the total possibly due, based on IRS methodology.
A: The IRS does not arrest people for failing to pay taxes. They arrest people for evading paying taxes. You should contact an experienced tax attorney (I currently have a client out of the country and we communicate by email) and discuss your situation in depth. If you are unable to pay back the taxes that you owe, you can also discuss the various collection alternatives with the attorney. The IRS will sometimes revoke a taxpayer's passport if they fail to pay their taxes. If that is the case you will receive a letter at your last known address.
I have no idea if you can reclaim your pension. As far as pro bono help, you can try a low income taxpayer clinic but if you are out of the country it is highly unlikely that they will be able to assist you but you can always contact one in the area you plan on moving back to and see if they can help you.
The taxpayer advocate service may also be able to help you but if your case is complex they may not be the best solution for you.
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A: The odds of a US citizen being arrested at customs upon a return to the US after 12 years for being unfiled tax returns would probably be close zero. If you have a large amount of unreported income, you should seek out professional advice. You should also think about whether you have received any notices from the IRS at the address you used on your last filed US 1040. The IRS generally would make an assessment of taxes, including against a taxpayer who has not filed tax returns, and then performs an investigation to determine if you were knowingly and actively acting to avoid paying your taxes, and then submits an opinion that arrest and prosecution should follow. You could contact the IRS (after speaking to a professional) if you are that concerned about being arrested to obtain a copy of your IRS transcript which should list all correspondence and any W-2 or 1099s you have received over the years (that the IRS also received). In other words, a lot of things generally happen prior to the IRS requesting an arrest warrant for a taxpayer who has unpaid taxes and then sending out a team to arrest you.
Also, keep in mind that it is possible for you to not have a tax liability at all. Even after filing your tax returns. You may have been obligated to file returns and report pension income and possibly social security income, but you ultimately may not have a tax liability after taking into account the standard deduction, personal exemption and possibly tax credits that could apply. The IRS may not even know that you have income to report for those years if the company or entity that you worked for to earn a pension did not file 1099s with the IRS to report that income. And if you do ultimately owe taxes for those years, keep in mind that the IRS prosecutes very few people who do have unpaid taxes. Most either pay or pay what they can. Most do not go to jail. You need to have criminal intent to not pay your taxes for that to happen.
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