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When's the last day to file taxes?

The pandemic led to some changes in the rules.



Nora Carol Photography

Between COVID-related job insecurity, stimulus payments, and all the gains or losses you saw last year fooling around on Robinhood, your 2020 taxes may look a bit more complicated than in years past. Luckily, for the second straight year, the IRS has pushed back the traditional Apr. 15 tax deadline for individuals. Last year, you had until July 15 to file, but in 2021, most Americans will need to file their 2020 tax returns by May 17. However, residents of Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana will have until June 15, after the IRS issued an extension due to February’s severe winter storms.

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When is the tax extension deadline? 

If you’ll need more time to figure out your taxes, the IRS allows anyone to file a free extension request that will push your due date out to Oct. 15. However, you’ll still be required to pay any taxes you owe by May 17 (or June 15 in the three aforementioned states), and that money will be due when you file your extension request. This option simply gives you more time to get your forms in order to make sure you’re maximizing your refund.

Filing an extension requires submitting Form 4868 and paying any taxes owed, but the IRS provides a list of free software to make the process easy.

Do I need to file an extension to pay by May 17, instead of April 15?

No, that new due date applies to all Americans automatically. The same goes for the June 15 deadline in Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. No extra paperwork required.

When are quarterly estimated taxes due? 

People with self-employment, interest, dividend, or rental income will still need to pay their estimated Q1 quarterly taxes for 2021 by Apr. 15. Some states have pushed back that deadline for their share of any taxes that weren’t withheld by an employer, but the federal government still expects its money by the usual Apr. 15 due date.

Will my refund be delayed too? 

No, the new May 17 deadline only applies to the due date for filing your taxes. While the IRS is warning that refunds may be a bit slower than usual this year due to the pandemic, they still expect most filers to receive their refunds within three weeks, regardless of when you file.

When’s the last day to file state taxes? 

Most individual filers fill out their state return at the same time as their federal return, but for your 2020 taxes, it’s important to note that they may have different due dates. While most states have moved their deadlines to May 17 in coordination with the IRS, several have extended it even further, while a few still expect returns by Apr. 15. H&R Block has a handy rubric to check your state’s status.

How do I file my taxes?

As we’ve covered in the past, you have a lot of online and software-based options to help you fill and submit your tax returns, including:

Most of these providers offer a free option that’s sufficient for basic tax returns, but you’ll usually need to pay if you have things like investment income or itemized deductions. Filing your state taxes will usually incur an additional fee as well.

And though many tax prep companies go to great lengths to hide this, remember that if you made less than $72,000 last year, the IRS partners with several companies to offer totally free tax preparation, including state returns in many cases. If you made more than $72,000 and have anything more complicated than a basic return, you still have a few options for free tax prep:

Credit Karma Tax - This service supports most complicated individual tax situations, and is entirely free for everyone, regardless of income. Credit Karma (owned by Intuit) makes its money by using your tax data to send you targeted offers for credit cards and other financial services, which you’re probably already getting from 100 other vectors anyway. It’ll even file your state taxes for free, in most cases.

FreeTaxUSA - If you don’t want to trade privacy for free tax prep, FreeTaxUSA is also completely free for federal filers, but does charge $15 for each state return. They also offer a $7 Deluxe service that includes priority live chat support, audit protection, and free amended returns. You can also use promo code FREETAXUSA10 to save 10% on your entire order.