s a reminder to those who have not yet filed their 2020 tax returns, May 17, is the due date to either file a return (and pay the taxes owed) or file for an automatic extension (and pay an estimate of the taxes owed).
Normally April 15 is the due date, but this year the IRS extended it until May 17. Normally the extension period is 6 months, but because the original due date was already pushed back a month, the extension for those who haven’t already filed for one will be for 5 months (to October 15).
Caution should be exercised when preparing the extension application, which is IRS Form 4868. Even though this form is described as “automatic,” the extension is automatically granted only if it includes a reasonable estimate of the 2020 tax liability and only if that anticipated liability is paid along with the extension voucher. It is not uncommon for taxpayers to enter zero as the estimated tax liability without figuring the actual estimated amount. These taxpayers risk the IRS classifying their forms as having been improperly completed, which in turn makes the extensions invalid. If you need an extension, please contact this office so that we can prepare a valid extension for you.
The extension must be filed in a timely manner; at this office, we can file your extension electronically before the due date. If you are mailing an extension, be advised that the envelope with the extension form must be postmarked on or before the May 17 due date. However, there are inherent risks associated with dropping an extension form in a mailbox; for instance, the envelope might not be postmarked in a timely fashion. Thus, those who have estimated tax due should mail their extension forms using registered or certified mail so as not to risk late-filing penalties.
In addition, the May 17 deadline also applies to the following:
- Balance-Due Payments for the 2020 Tax Year – Be aware that Form 4868 is an extension to file, NOT an extension to pay. The IRS will assess late-payment penalties (with interest) on any balance due, even when the extension has been granted. Taxpayers who anticipate having a balance due need to estimate this amount and include payment for that balance, either along with the extension request (as indicated above) or electronically (through the IRS website).
- Contributions to a Roth or Traditional IRA for the 2020 Tax Year – May 17, 2021 is the last day for 2020 contributions to either a Roth or a traditional IRA. Form 4868 does not provide an extension for making IRA contributions.
- Individual Estimated Tax Payments for the First Quarter of 2021 – The first installment of the 2021 estimated tax payment was due on April 15, 2021, and although the IRS extended the due date for filing the 1040 series returns until May 17, 2021, they did not extend the due date for 2021 estimated tax payments. If you make estimated tax payments and did not file the first installment on or before April 15, 2021, then that payment is late, and you should file it as soon as possible to mitigate any penalties.
- Individual Refund Claims for the 2017 Tax Year – The regular three-year statute of limitations expires for the 2017 tax return on May 17 of this year. Thus, no refund will be granted for a 2017 return (original or amended) that is filed after May 17. Taxpayers could risk missing out on the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit, the refundable American Opportunity Tax Credit for college tuition, and the refundable child credit for the 2017 tax year if they do not file before the statute of limitations ends. Caution: The statute does not apply to balances due for unfiled 2017 returns.
If your return is still pending because of missing information, please forward that information to this office as quickly as possible so that we can ensure that your return meets the May 17 deadline. Keep in mind that the last week of tax season is very hectic, and your returns may not be completed in time if you wait until the last minute. If you know that the missing information will not be available before the May 17 deadline, then please let us know right away so that we can prepare an extension request.
If you have not yet completed your returns, please call this office right away so that we can file an extension.