Taxes. There’s no escaping them. And if you try, you could be in hot water with the IRS no matter who you are. At age 44, famous chef Anthony Bourdain never had a savings account and hadn’t filed his taxes for a decade. In an article on CNBC.com1, Bourdain explains that he used to always owe money, thanks to constant job-hopping, perpetual debt, and drug use.

I didn’t put anything aside, ever, he told Wealthsimple in an article on BusinessInsider.com2. Money came in, money went out. I was always a paycheck behind, at least. His major turning point came right before his first book, Kitchen Confidential, hit store shelves and turned him into the famous chef and travel writer that he is today. After his risky career shift paid off he immediately called the IRS and credit card companies to settle his balances. Now, he is determined to never owe anyone money again.

If you’re behind on filing your taxes, or owe an outstanding balance, know that you have options. Here’s what happens and how you can settle your balance and avoid further consequences.

What happens if you don’t file your taxes?

No one individual’s tax situation is the same, but everyone is subject to the same fees and interest charges if you don’t file or pay on time. The first fee is called the failure-to-file penalty, which comes to 5 percent of your unpaid taxes for each month your tax return is late, up to 25 percent.

If you did file your tax return on time but didn’t pay the total amount owed, you could be subject to a failure-to-pay penalty. This penalty is 0.5 percent of your unpaid taxes for each month you don’t pay, up to 25 percent. In addition, you’ll pay interest charges equal to the federal short-term rate, plus 3 percent.

Don’t wait

Don’t wait until you receive a letter from the IRS before making a plan to file your taxes or pay an outstanding balance. By then, your account will already be levied with interest and a host of fees. The sooner you start rectifying your tax situation, the fewer penalties and interest you will pay in the future. Follow in Chef Bourdain’s footsteps and reach out to the IRS to settle your balance before they have to contact you.

Can’t pay your taxes?

The IRS offers options for taking care of taxes that can’t be paid all at once. Whether you have a balance of $10,000 or as much as $50,000, you can apply for various payment plans that offer the chance to pay your tax bill in affordable installments. Look for Form 9465 or head to the IRS website and search for the Online Payment Agreement form.


If you continue to ignore your tax situation, it won’t ever go away. And you don’t want to live in fear of not paying your taxes. Mr. Bourdain sums it up nicely, to me, money is freedom from insecurity, freedom to move, time if you choose to make use of time. If they [IRS] call me in for a full audit, here I am. It’s all there. I lived a lot of years afraid of the bank, the landlord, and the government calling. Nowadays, it’s nice to not be afraid.3

Rich Feight, CFP
Rich Feight, CFP

Hi, I'm Rich Feight I'm a fee-only Certified Financial Planner, successful business owner, and self-made millionaire that knows how to beat the system and become wealthy. I have a lot of clients that have done it too. I'm also pretty good at finding that ever-elusive work/life balance so many of us strive for. Lucky for you I have an abundant mindset and give all my knowledge away on my blog. So if you want to know what it takes to become a millionaire, follow me.