Q: I had a family emergency come up, and it just slipped my mind to send in my return on April 15. Am I in trouble?
A: Probably not too much. You are subject to a late-filing penalty, but since the penalty is based on any unpaid tax at the due date, if your return shows that you will be getting a refund, there would be no penalty. For this purpose, the stimulus refunds do not count.
If your return shows that you still owe taxes, you may be subject to a penalty of 5 percent of the unpaid amount for each month, or part of a month, that your return is late, but not to exceed 25 percent. So be sure to file your return by May 15.
The late-filing penalty may not be imposed if you can show that your failure to file on time was due to a reasonable cause and not willful neglect. If you still owe taxes with your return, enclose a letter explaining your circumstances and asking forgiveness from the late-filing penalty.
These questions are actual inquiries submitted by taxpayers to our AARP Tax-Aide Program. The AARP Tax-Aide Program is a volunteer-run, free tax-preparation and assistance program offered to low- and middle-income taxpayers with special attention to those age 60 and older. Our volunteers are trained and IRS-certified to understand individual federal-tax issues. Our volunteers provide tax assistance as a public service and cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information provided.
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