How to File Taxes While in Prison

••• old jail image by Tracy Horning from

Just because you are in prison on one offense does not mean you should risk further incarceration for the commitment of another crime. If you have an income and do not file taxes, you will be subject to prosecution for tax evasion. Filing while in prison is often handled by a prisoner’s loved ones from outside the correctional institution. A prisoner with earned income but no one to file a return has a tax liability, and must choose to file from prison or request an extension until the end of the sentence.

The Spousal Option

Your spouse can file your joint return. Have your spouse prepare the return, and bring it to you for your signature if you have earned income in the tax year. If it is a hardship to sign in person, you will need to have the return mailed to you for your signature in time to file by April 15th.

If you are reluctant to have your personal income information on display to prison officials who handle the mail, you may want to consider signing a blank 1040. However, the IRS now urges electronic filing, in which case your signature may already be in their database, and your spouse can file without your input.

Power of Attorney for Tax Purposes

Appoint someone to have power of attorney over your tax issues. Have a friend or family member prepare your return from outside of the prison. They will need access to all of your income sources, your bank statements, and your allowable deductions, so it will likely require your power of attorney filing IRS form 2848 with the IRS.

Urge them to verify the necessary documents with an certified public accountant (CPA), particularly if you have a business, or have had a complicated return in the past.

File In-House

Utilize the in-house inmate services. Legal professionals are available to assist prisoners in filing returns and provide advice on tax issues. In addition to well-stocked law libraries, prisoners are afforded access to reasonable services, which would include the preparation of tax returns.

Verify Whether You Need to File

Check with the requirements of your individual state, both for available services and filling requirements. If your income falls below a certain level, you may not be required to file.


  • Remember that, even if you don't pay taxes while in prison, any tax liability is incurring interest and penalties while it goes unpaid.


  • Use the services available in your facility to grant power of attorney or have someone outside the facility prepare the tax documents for your notarized signature.

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