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When to File Taxes

While most Americans think of April 15 as Tax Day, that is not true for all taxpayers. There are some situations where individual taxpayers are allowed to file later. All taxpayers are entitled to an automatic six-month filing extension if they ask for it. This article explains whether you can file later than April 15 and how to request an extension.

What is the Individual Filing Deadline?

The U.S. tax code states that the last day for calendar year taxpayers to file their federal income tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is April 15 of the following year. Most individuals file their taxes based on a calendar year that runs from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31. However, some businesses and individuals will choose a fiscal tax year. A fiscal year can be a 12-month period ending at the end of any month other than December.

April 15 is the statutory filing date for tax forms, but if it falls on a weekend, your returns will be due the next business day. If the postponed filing date falls on Emancipation Day (April 16) or Patriots' Day (the third Monday in April), the filing deadline is postponed another day. Emancipation Day is celebrated in Washington, D.C., and Patriots' Day in New England.

Tax returns for fiscal year taxpayers are due the 15th day of the fourth month after the fiscal year ends. If that day falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday, the deadline is pushed back to the next regular business day.

April 15 is also the deadline for making contributions to individual retirement accounts (IRAs), 401(k)s, and health savings accounts that will apply to last year's tax return.

Taxpayers Outside the United States

All U.S. citizens and permanent residents (green card holders) must file federal income tax returns each year. That's the case even if they did not reside in the United States during the year. However, those taxpayers enjoy an automatic two-month filing extension. Active-duty military members in a combat zone also receive automatic extensions based on the time they were away.

Taxpayers in Disaster Areas

The IRS usually gives taxpayers who live or have businesses in federally designated disaster areas automatic extensions for filing their returns or paying any tax due.

Quarterly Tax Payments

Self-employed taxpayers typically make quarterly tax payments to cover their income, Social Security, and Medicare taxes. This prevents them from needing to make a lump-sum tax payment each April. These quarterly payments are usually due on April 18, June 15, Sept. 15, and Jan. 15 (of the following year).

State Filing Deadlines

States that levy their own income taxes generally use the same filing deadlines as the federal government to avoid confusion. California, Georgia, and New York are among those that usually follow the federal government's lead. States can also postpone filing deadlines for state tax returns for residents in areas that have suffered natural disasters. For example, after Alabama residents saw severe storm damage in January 2023 that resulted in federal disaster declarations, the state postponed its tax filing deadline until Oct. 16.

Filing for an Extension

All taxpayers can request an automatic six-month tax extension from their original due date for filing their federal income tax returns. Last year, an estimated 19 million taxpayers took advantage of the automatic extension during tax season. However, you must request the extension before the filing deadline, or you may be subject to late-filing penalties by the IRS.

It is important to note that a filing extension is not a payment extension and does not offer tax relief. You will still be subject to late payment penalties and interest if you don't pay your estimated taxes when you file for an extension. Many websites offer calculators and tools to help with these estimates. If you can't make the estimated payment, the IRS usually allows you to set up a payment plan.

The IRS provides taxpayers with several easy ways to request an extension.

  • All taxpayers can use IRS Free File to electronically request an automatic extension, regardless of their income. They must estimate their taxes due and should pay any amount owed.
  • Taxpayers can get an automatic extension by electronically making all or part of their estimated tax payments through the IRS' online account services. These payments can be made using the IRS' Direct Pay service or a debit or credit card.
  • Tax software like TurboTax will allow you to file an automatic extension request with the IRS. Many tax prep websites will help you file an extension for free.
  • You can file an IRS Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

Filing on Time

If you still file a paper tax return by mail, it is considered filed on time if it is postmarked by its due date. The IRS treats the registration as the postmark for returns sent by registered mail. The registration can also be used to show the return was delivered to the IRS. For returns sent by certified mail, the certified mail receipt is proof that the return was delivered.

Electronically Filed Returns

If you use IRS e-file to file your return, it is considered filed on time if the authorized electronic return transmitter postmarked the transmission by its due date. You should receive an email or electronic notice that the IRS has received your e-filed tax return.

Late Filing Penalties

You may be subject to tax penalties if you miss the filing deadline. If you file your return after the filing deadline, the IRS can charge a late filing penalty of 5% of the amount due each month the return is late, up to a maximum of 25%. The IRS will assess interest on your tax payment from the regular due date of your return, even if you qualify for an extension. A late payment penalty may also apply to any tax, other than estimated tax, that is not paid by the due date.

Still Have Questions? Talk to a Tax Lawyer

Everyone's personal tax situation is different. A local tax attorney can help you determine your filing deadline, payment deadline, and whether you should request a filing extension from the IRS. Not knowing when to file or making mistakes in filing for an extension can result in late filing penalties, late payment penalties, and interest payments. A tax lawyer is a tax professional who can ensure you don't end up spending additional money because you didn't understand the IRS' rules and regulations.

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