Everyone knows that April 15th is the date to file taxes. But by what time? And what happens when someone doesn’t file in time? Last year, just before the well known April 15th deadline, the IRS stated that it had received nearly 100 million returns. It expected that 35 million would come in just under the wire, and that 12 million would ask for deadline extensions. That means almost 24% of filers do it last minute and 8% request extensions. So anyone struggling to finish their taxes should know they’re not alone. Here are more details about the personal tax filing deadlines and what to do in order to file taxes late.
Returns need to be postmarked April 15th
In order to be accepted as filing on time, the IRS wants a paper return mailed to it to have a postmark of April 15th. It used to be that the US Postal Service often stayed open for extra hours so that last-minute tax filers could get their documents in, but with E-file services post offices are routinely not staying open extra hours. If filing a paper return, calling nearby USPS locations to find out their April 15 hours is the best way of finding out for sure how late a paper return can be mailed.
Other mail services offer pick ups, however their pick up times vary by neighborhood and company. Most need a day’s advance notice to schedule a pickup. Both UPS and FedEx have drop off boxes. UPS has a list of locations here, and FedEx here. The best way to verify the pick up times is by checking the box itself.
Electronically filing gives you until midnight, April 15th
If a taxpayer is running very late, the best option for getting taxes in just under the wire is to use electronic filing. If they make less than $60,000 the IRS has options for free filing online. In addition, there is a variety of commercial software that can be downloaded or used online to fill out taxes and submit them. That means someone can sit in the comfort of their home office well after the post office has closed and still submit their taxes. They’ll have to do it by midnight of April
15th, but the extra hours gained by not having to use paper and mail might be worth it to many last-minute filers.
However, waiting until the very last minute before midnight could still be dangerous. Many other filers will be waiting until this very minute as well. While electronic filing has matured, there is still a risk that a server somewhere could go down and the return not go through. Submitting before midnight, if possible, could save heart ache.
You can file for an automatic 6-month extension
If it’s coming down to the wire and taxes just can’t be completed by midnight for electronic filing, then an extension can give taxpayers time to sort out their paperwork and file after April 15th. The extension form is IRS Form 4868 and it gives the taxpayer an automatic extra six months to file their taxes.
There is a caveat to filing for an extension: it’s not free. While the larger penalties that are levied for not filing at all don’t apply, there is a smaller monthly interest charge on any money you owe the IRS when you do file your final taxes. It is half a percent a month. However it can give a taxpayer breathing room to finish working on taxes. And the penalty of half a percent a month is far better than the 4.5% a month penalty levied against individuals who do not file at all.
Missed the filing date? You should still file ASAP
As mentioned above, the interest charged for someone who doesn’t file is 4.5% a month. That comes out to 54% a year. The sooner someone files taxes, the sooner that large interest rate gets dropped to something smaller and more manageable. Filing as soon as possible stops taxes owed from growing larger and larger. The government also offers methods to assist taxpayers who owe more taxes than they currently pay. There are extensions and payment plan options than can help repayment. Many of these are covered in Money Nation’s What To Do If I Can’t Pay My Taxes? To file your taxes late, you go about filing them the same way as if you were doing them before April 15th, using paper, software, online services or an accountant.