The extended deadline to file and pay federal taxes is Wednesday.
When the coronavirus pandemic took hold this spring, the federal government postponed the traditional April 15 filing deadline until July 15.
Pushing back the date provided some relief for taxpayers dealing with uncertainty brought on by lockdowns, school closures and shuttered businesses.
The Internal Revenue Service expects about 150 million returns from individuals this year. As of the last count, it had received almost 139 million. That’s down about 6 million — or 5.3 percent for the comparable period last year.
Bruce Baughman, owner of Belmont Business Consultants and Tax Services in Ohio, said his business has been busy with people who are filing last minute.
“We had a relaxing three and a half months, and now we’re back at our peak hours,” Baughman said. “I think the date change made the tax filing deadline slip a lot of people’s minds. Everything else was shut down and people didn’t want to leave their houses.”
Taxpayers must file or seek an extension by the new deadline or face a penalty. You can avoid the penalty if you file for an extension by Wednesday, Baughman said. Taxpayers who file for an extension will have until Oct. 15 to file their taxes. Those who don’t pay by the deadline will also be fined, but that penalty is smaller than the penalty for not filing.
Taxpayers also can work out a payment agreement to pay in installments, Baughman said.
A big difference this year is that those who don’t have health insurance don’t have to pay a penalty fee, Baughman said.
Do I have to file my taxes on Wednesday?
Yes. In most cases, you must file and pay your taxes by July 15. Taxpayers who need more time can request an extension on the IRS website. That will give them until Oct. 15 to file. However, an extension to file does not mean added time to pay. Those planning on filing later should estimate what they owe and make that payment by July 15.
What if I can’t pay now?
File your taxes even if you cannot pay. The IRS is willing to set up payment plans or make other arrangements with taxpayers who can’t pay in full. The penalty for failure to file is much more expensive than the failure to pay.
What about refunds?
The IRS is still processing and issuing refunds, most within 21 days. Those getting refunds will be paid interest, dating back to April 15, if they file on time. The interest rate is 5 percent per year through June 30. Starting July 1, it drops to 3 percent per year. The interest is compounded daily for refunds. Any refund issued after July 1 will get a blended rate.
Can I pay or file online?
Yes, you can file or pay your taxes online. The IRS urges taxpayers to use electronic options to support social distancing and speed up the processing of returns, refunds or payments. The agency is still working its way through a backlog of mail that built up during its closure in response to the pandemic.
Accountants and tax preparation services say they have a variety of means to help people prepare their taxes without meeting face to face.
What about estimated taxes?
Taxpayers who make estimated quarterly tax payments have until July 15 to make the payments for the first and second quarter. Those payments were originally due on April 15 and June 15, respectively.
There are a host of other tax deadlines linked to July 15. For example, July 15 is also the deadline to claim a refund for 2016 tax returns. An estimated $1.5 billion refunds for 2016 are sitting unclaimed because people failed to file tax returns. The law provides a three-year window of opportunity to claim a refund. But if taxpayers do not file a return within that time, the money becomes property of the Treasury.
With all the changes stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, there may be need for added help when it comes to taxes. It’s a good time to check in with a tax professional if you have had a major shift in income, employment or other tax situations in 2020.