No, that is not exactly what I am trying to say here.
The problem is that every time you are issued a W-2 form or a 1099 form which reports income to you, a copy of that same form is sent to the IRS. So for the years you have not filed, if you had any income that was reported to you on one of those forms, the IRS would still be aware of the fact that you had income in those years, even though you did not actually file a return.
Because of that, if you just try to file for the last two years where you have a refund coming, they are not likely to issue the refund until they receive your tax returns
for the other missing years. It is certainly not going to hurt you to try filing for just the last 2 years, but I am just telling you that in all likelihood they would not issue the refunds.
They would, however, give you credit for any refund which you were due and apply that refund against any tax you owe for the previous years, which of course will help reduce the overall amount that you owe. If the amount you owe is still an amount which you feel you cannot pay in full, then you have a couple of options.
One option is to file what is called an Offer in Compromise. An OIC is an attempt to settle your tax debt for an amount which is less than you actually owe. If the IRS reviews your financial situation and feels that it is unlikely you could ever repay the entire debt, then they may accept such an offer.
If the IRS reviews your financial situation but does not feel that you qualify for an Offer in Compromise, then generally they will be willing to work with you to set up an Installment Agreement, where you can pay off the tax debt over a period of time.
As long as you can show them that you are trying to be cooperative in settling any tax debt that you have, then this will generally keep them from trying to garnish your wages or bank account or take other action against you.
As I said, you can certainly try filing just for the 2 years where you have a refund coming and see what happens. You may get lucky and have the returns get through the system without any questioning, and the refunds may be issued. All I am saying, is that it is not likely, but it is certainly worth a try.
Thanks again for using JA, and best of luck to you in getting this resolved.