On the final day, you’ll be able to realistically file your federal taxes for 2020

Earlier this year, due to the ongoing effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the IRS extended the due date for filing federal income taxes for individuals for the 2020 tax year to May 17, 2021.

When is the last day you can realistically file your federal taxes? For many Americans, it is actually May 17th.

“You can still file your taxes on May 17th,” said Kathy Pickering, chief tax officer of H&R Block.

There are several ways to collect your taxes. You can file your taxes online yourself (free if your Adjusted Gross Income is less than $ 72,000), you can use a tax software program, or you can hire a professional to help you.

Most tax offices, including H&R Block locations, will be open through May 17th so Americans can get their taxes on time. If you plan to send your tax documents in, you’ll need to make sure the package is postmarked by May 17th.

For some there are automatic extensions after May 17th:

  • Those affected by the winter storms in Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana in February 2021 have until June 15, 2021 to file their taxes.
  • Americans currently living outside of the United States and Puerto Rico also have until June 15 to file their taxes
  • Members of the military and authorized auxiliary personnel currently serving in a combat zone will have at least 180 days after leaving the combat zone to file their taxes

But just because you can wait until the last minute doesn’t mean you should. For many, it takes time to gather the necessary documents. If you run into issues or have questions, you may need additional time or guidance.

“Almost every American has had financial issues this season because of the Covid pandemic and the resulting changes in tax law, and it’s best to sort it all out sooner rather than later,” Pickering says.

Waiting until the last minute can also increase the chances of you making a mistake, says Lisa Greene-Lewis, chartered accountant and TurboTax tax expert. “If you wait until the last minute, you can leave out a revenue reporting form or a receipt for a valuable tax deduction or credit,” she says.

Note that the IRS tax deadline only applies to federal income taxes. If you haven’t filed your state taxes, you may have already missed the deadline. About 37 states also agreed to extend their deadlines to May 17, 2021, but some did not, including Hawaii and New Hampshire.

Some states extended their filing deadlines, but not the due date by which residents were required to pay their taxes. The Association of International Certified Professional Accountants has a comprehensive breakdown of state tax due dates.

In good news, extending the deadline for filing taxes to May 17 also means Americans will have until that date to start contributing to their individual retirement accounts in 2020. Contributing to an IRA could help lower your tax burden, Greene-Lewis says.

If you can’t file your taxes by May 17, you can request an extension until October 15, 2021. Note, however, that while the renewal extends the deadline for filing, you may need to estimate the taxes you may have to owe and pay at least 90% of the amount due by May 17th. Failure to do so can result in paying interest and penalties.

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