Tax Day 2021

Tax Day 2021

The 2021 tax deadline was pushed back to May 17 this year, instead of the usual April 15 Tax Day. With under two weeks left to file, many Americans are considering filing for a tax extension instead.

This year, filing your tax return might be more important than ever because of the way stimulus check payments and adjusted gross income are intertwined. For example, on top of a larger tax refund, you could also be in for a “plus-up payment” for your third stimulus check. And your 2021 tax information will also be critical in determining the amount you are owed for the newly revised child tax credit. (Use CNET’s child tax calculator to see how much you will get.)

The earlier you file, the earlier you will receive any and all money coming to you, and the less likely you’ll have to jump through additional hoops like filing a tax extension, retroactively claiming child tax credit money, or filing a payment trace to claim missing stimulus check money.

How the May 17 tax deadline affects stimulus checks

The IRS uses information on your 2020 tax return if it has it when it determines the amount you’d get in your third stimulus check. Specifically, the IRS looks at the AGI, or adjusted gross income, on your 2020 form to help figure out your payment, using a new stimulus check formula.

But the tax agency will use your 2019 return if your 2020 taxes haven’t been accepted by the time your payment is sent. That could work in your favor if your income from 2019 was lower than your income from 2020 (you won’t have to return the money in most cases).

However, if your 2020 tax return would bring you a larger third stimulus check like if you have more dependents, you’d want to file as soon as possible, so the IRS processes your 2020 taxes before releasing your third stimulus check. Here’s what people who don’t normally file taxes should know.

What if you can’t make the May 17 tax return due date?

If you need time beyond May 17, you can file a tax extension, which gives you more time to complete and send your paperwork to the IRS. The IRS said individual taxpayers don’t need to file forms or call the IRS to qualify for the extension. The new extension doesn’t get you off the hook for estimated tax payments, however. The IRS said the May 17 deadline doesn’t apply to those who make estimated payments, which were still due on April 15. For more details on taxes this year, we spell out the difference between a tax refund and a tax return and how tax season is different in 2021.

What happens if I miss the tax deadline?

If you fail to file your income taxes by midnight on May 17, what happens next depends on your situation. If you are owed a refund, there is no penalty for filing late, though this may be different for your state taxes. But if you owe the IRS, penalties, and interest will start to accrue on any remaining unpaid tax due in May. There’s also a $330 failure-to-file penalty under the Taxpayer First Act of 2019.

It’s best to file on time, even if you owe money that you can’t pay right now — in most cases, late filing penalties are higher than late tax payment penalties. If you can’t file on time, you can file for an extension, which automatically pushes back the tax filing deadline to Oct. 15 and protects you from penalties. In most states, taxpayers who are granted a federal extension to file automatically receive an equivalent extension to file their state income tax return.

When do I need to file my state taxes?

Your state tax return deadline is likely the same as the federal return deadline: May 17. (Last year, most states extended their deadlines to July 15 to match the federal government’s delayed deadline.) In most states, taxpayers who are granted a federal extension to file automatically receive an equivalent extension to file their state income tax return.

Can I file my state taxes online?

Many states have their own online tax platforms, which are usually free to use. TurboTax, H&R Block, and other online tax tools can also help you file your state return and can import most of the information from a federal return they’ve already prepared, though they usually charge a fee.

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