A Taxing Situation

Q:

“I own a business, but I neglected to file my income tax for several years. Since my diagnosis of ADD and treatment for it, I have filed my taxes on time. Can I get a waiver of penalties from the IRS based on my diagnosis?”

ADDitude contributor Robert Tudisco is a practicing attorney with ADHD and an expert on special education law and disability advocacy.
A:

As a criminal defense attorney, I never use attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) or any other disability as a defense for anti-social and/or criminal behavior. It does not constitute a legal defense.

However, the IRS may view your ADD/ADHD as a mitigating circumstance in explaining why you didn’t pay your taxes on time.

You have already taken steps -- starting medication to manage symptoms -- to ensure that you will file future returns on time. Explain this to your accountant or attorney, and have him bring that up to the state or IRS when pleading your case. In many cases, back taxes, interest, and penalties can be negotiated. A skillful advocate can get the IRS to waive penalties and, in some instances, reduce your tax liability.

Note: ADDitude does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The material on this web site is provided for educational purposes only. See additional information. While comments are appreciated, due to the high volume of inquiries we receive, there is no guarantee that either ADDitude or the expert will respond to follow-up questions.

Since Robert Tudisco was diagnosed with ADHD, he has researched and written extensively on the subject of special education law and disability advocacy, and now specializes in the area as a practicing attorney. He is a former Executive Director of the Edge Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides specialized coaches for students with ADHD and Executive Functioning Impairment. He has served on the National Board of Directors of CHADD and is a former Vice President of ADDA. He is a frequent resource for the media, including CBS News, New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, ABC News, The BBC, The Today Show, CNN, USA Today, and The Seattle Times.

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