April can be a stressful month for many Americans because, every year, it’s the month that their income taxes are due for submission to the IRS. However, every year, many miss the income tax return filing deadline. This can happen for a variety of reasons. In fact, being too busy with work and your personal life, not having all of the right paperwork necessary to maximize your deduction, or even life-altering events (injury, illness, marriage, etc.) have all been cited as reasons for missing the tax deadline.
But what happens if you miss the income tax return deadline? When, exactly, are your returns due to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)? What can you do if you miss the deadline? Read on to discover what you need to know!
What Is the Income Tax Return Filing Deadline?
One of the most important things to know about filing your taxes is when they’re due. However, this isn’t as straightforward as stating a specific date because, well, filing deadlines can vary.
As noted by the IRS on their own website, for most Americans, Tuesday, April 18 2023 was the tax filing deadline for their 2022 taxes. Normally, it would be April 15, but that fell on a weekend this year and the following Monday was Emancipation Day in Washington D.C., hence the extension. The IRS extends the deadline to the next business day when the April 15 date falls on a legal holiday or weekend.
However, there are exceptions to this deadline. For example, some states, such as Maine and Massachusetts, may provide slightly longer for taxpayers to file their taxes.
Members of the military may also have special rules applied to their tax due dates if they’re deployed to an active combat zone or are hospitalized in the line of duty. As noted by the IRS: “you have at least 180 days after you leave the designated combat zone/contingency operation to file and pay taxes.” This helps protect active-duty soldiers, sailors, etc. from the penalties for filing late because of their work.
The IRS may also grant exceptions for individuals who they determine were affected by a presidentially declared disaster or a terroristic or military action. In such cases, the IRS states that: “You have up to one year after the due date of your return to file and pay taxes, depending on the deadline specified by the Service.”
Additionally, if you think you won’t be ready to file your taxes by the deadline, you can put in a request for an automatic extension out to October 16. It’s necessary to file this extension before the deadline, however. You can file Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return to start this process.
Even if you file for an extension, any taxes owed will still be due on the normal due date. If you think you’ll end up owing the IRS (or owe any money from previous years), be sure to include a payment with your extension request.
Penalties for Missing the Tax Deadline
So, what happens if you miss filing your taxes on time? If you don’t file your taxes on time, you might get a letter in the mail from the IRS notifying you that you owe a “failure to file penalty” to the Service.
The “Failure to File” penalty will vary depending on several factors, including:
- How much you owe in taxes.
- How late your tax filing is.
- Whether you filed for an extension.
At the time of this writing, the IRS states that the penalty is “5% of the unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month that a tax return is late” though it “won’t exceed 25% of your unpaid taxes.” So, if you owe $500 of income tax, your penalty would be $25 for the first month.
However, if your return is more than 60 days late, special conditions apply. In that case, there’s a minimum “penalty of $435… or 100% of the tax required to be shown on the return, whichever is less.” Note that these numbers may change from one year to the next.
So, if you were more than 60 days late filing your taxes and owed $500 of taxes for that return, you would owe the IRS an additional $435 since that would be the lower number for the minimum penalty.
Finally, the IRS charges interest on unpaid penalties. If you don’t make a payment, the amount you owe could grow.
What to Do if You Miss the Income Tax Return Filing Deadline
So, what should you do if you missed the tax return filing deadline? If you missed Tax Day, there are some questions you’ll want to ask yourself:
What If I Owe the IRS?
If you owe the IRS, you’ll likely incur some penalties for failing to file on time. Should you owe the IRS, here are a few things to do:
- Don’t Panic. If you miss the filing deadline, don’t panic. Lots of people miss tax day every year—in 2022, approximately 9 million people didn’t file their 2021 returns according to the IRS. The penalty for missing the deadline is relatively minor if you make a payment quickly. So, don’t stress if you’re a few days or even a week late by the time you read this.
- Try to File as Soon as Possible. If you miss the deadline, get started on filing your taxes as soon as possible once you’re able to. This can help you minimize the late filing penalty and avoid the large post-60-day fee. Members of the military can use MilTax to file electronically.
- Make Payments on Any Amount Owed. If you owe the IRS, make payments as soon as possible. If you can’t pay the whole amount owed, try contacting the IRS to make a payment arrangement to avoid further failure to file/failure to pay penalties.
- See if You Qualify for a Deadline Exemption. If you’re a member of the military, have been affected by a national crisis, or have some other major event that prevented you from filing your tax return, see if you can qualify for one of the IRS’ exemptions to the filing deadline. It’s better to do this before the deadline if you’re sure you qualify since that would prevent the IRS sending you letters in the mail, but that may not always be a realistic option.
What If I’m Owed a Refund?
If the IRS owes you money, you’re in a much better position. There is no penalty for filing late if you’re due for a refund. However, you should still file as soon as you can so you don’t forget.
Also, if the IRS owes you money, there is a time limit to how long you have to claim it. The IRS states that you have “three years from the date you filed your original tax return or two years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later.” Requests for tax refunds after this period of time will result in forfeiture of the money you’re owed.
Filing for an Extension on the Tax Filing Deadline
Rather than dealing with the potential penalties of filing taxes late, it may be best to file for an extension with the IRS if you think that you’re going to miss the deadline. For example, if you’re simply unable to get the paperwork you need together or are dealing with a major life event of some kind that is distracting you from filing before the deadline, then you will definitely want to file for an extension to avoid the failure to file penalty.
Just fill out the IRS’ extension request form to get started.
Of course, as you’re reading this after April 18, it will be too late for this preventative measure. However, it’s a useful piece of information to keep in mind for next year.
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Disclaimer: This blog is intended for educational purposes and does not constitute legal advice for filing your tax return. Please consult with a tax professional, certified financial planner, or an IRS agent before attempting to apply the information in this post.
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