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IRS Tax Deadlines You Need to Know in 2021

Taxpayers now have until May 17 to file 2020 federal tax returns

senior working woman holding calculator with tax day words and report data on wood desk

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En español | Tax Day has been pushed back to May 17 from the traditional deadline of April 15 for filing federal income taxes. (May 15 is a Friday, so the new deadline is Monday, May 17.) It was pushed forward to July 15 in 2020 because of the pandemic. You'll need to have your return postmarked by midnight on May 17.

If you file electronically, the date and time in your time zone when your return is transmitted controls whether your return is filed on time. After you file, you will get an electronic acknowledgement that the IRS has accepted your return.

You now have until May 17th to make an individual retirement (IRA) contribution for 2020. The deadline to contribute to health savings accounts (HSAs), Archer Medical Savings Accounts (Archer MSAs), and Coverdell education savings accounts (Coverdell ESAs) is also May 17th.

If you are owed a refund from tax year 2017, you have until May 17th to file your taxes or make an amended return. Otherwise, you forfeit the money to Uncle Sam. Don’t do that.

IRS Tax Deadlines 2021

  • Jan 15 Final estimated tax payment for 2020 due
  • Jan 15 IRS Free File service opens to prepare 2020 returns
  • Jan 19 Free MilTax service for military opens to prepare 2020 returns
  • Feb 12 IRS begins processing 2020 returns
  • April 15 First estimated tax payment for 2021 due
  • May 17 Deadline to file 2020 tax return
  • June 15 Second estimated tax payment for 2021 due
  • Sept 15 Third estimated tax payment for 2021 due
  • Oct 15 Extended deadline to file 2020 tax return

May 17 isn't the only tax day to mark on your 2021 calendar. February 12, 2021 was the first day the IRS started accepting and processing federal income tax forms for the 2020 tax year. The IRS says the February 12 start date for individual tax return filers let them do additional programming and testing of IRS systems following the December 27 tax law changes that provided a second round of stimulus checks. If you're expecting a refund, you'll get your money fastest by filing electronically and getting your refund via direct deposit to your bank, rather than waiting for a check in the mail.

If you're a procrastinator, circle October 15, which is when you must file your final tax return after filing for an extension. You'll need Form 4868 to do so, and you can also file electronically for an automatic extension. Doing so will let you avoid the penalty for failing to file, which is 4.5 percent of the amount you owe each month.

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Even if you do file for an extension, you still have to estimate and pay your taxes due by May 17. (You don’t need to file for an extension if you file and pay before May 17.) You'll need to pay at least 90 percent of what you end up owing to avoid late payment penalties, which are 0.5 percent of what you owe per month. Combined, the two penalties cannot exceed 25 percent of what you owe.

Finally, if you're self-employed, your estimated taxes quarterly payments are due April 15, June 15 September 15 and January 15, 2022.

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