I Didn’t Submit My Tax Return by April 15. Now What?


Lateness is something we all fall victim to from time to time. You might keep your friend waiting for 15 minutes at a restaurant because you forgot your credit card at home or got stuck in a last-minute meeting at work. Or you might show up late to work because your normal bus pulled away just as you were getting to the stop.

Similarly, you might end up in a situation where you’re filing your taxes late — meaning, after the April 15 deadline. That’s not the best situation to be in. But ultimately, it may not be such a terrible one.

The consequences of being late

When you file a tax return past April 15 and are due a refund, nothing bad happens other than you have to wait longer for that money to hit your bank account. But when you owe the IRS money and file your tax return late, you face two penalties:

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  • A late payment penalty worth 0.5% of your unpaid tax bill per month or partial month your return is late, up to 25%
  • A failure-to-file penalty worth 5% of your unpaid tax bill per month or partial month your return is late, up to 25%

This means that if you file your taxes after April 15 and owe $1,000, you’ll be penalized $5 per month or partial month your payment is late, and you’ll be penalized $50 per month or partial month your return is late.

What to do if you’ve missed the tax deadline

If it’s already past April 15, your best bet is to try to file your taxes as soon as possible. If you’re due a refund, you’ll get that money sooner. And if you owe money, you can minimize the penalties mentioned above.

One thing you don’t want to do, however, is file a tax extension. A tax extension gives you six extra months to file your tax return without incurring the failure-to-file penalty. But you must request that extension before April 15 for it to take effect. If you’re past that deadline, don’t bother asking for an extension.

With that said, some people have more time to file taxes past the April 15 deadline without needing an extension. If you’re a military member in a combat zone, you automatically get an extra six months to get your return to the IRS.

Residents of certain states impacted by severe storms or events earlier this year or last year have until June 17 to file their taxes. These include:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Rhode Island
  • Tennessee
  • Washington
  • West Virginia

Within these states, extra time may only be available to residents in certain counties. You may want to contact the IRS or a local tax professional if you’re not sure what filing deadline applies to you this year.

All told, it’s best to take action as soon as possible once you’ve missed the tax-filing deadline. But don’t automatically assume you’re in for a world of financial pain if you’re late. If you act quickly, you may end up with minimal penalties — and in some cases, you won’t even face a penalty at all.

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