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Taxes Are Due Oct. 15 if You Filed for an Extension – Here's What to Know

US News & World Report -  Money logo US News & World Report - Money 10/7/2020 Geoff Williams

If you're a true procrastinator, you filed for a tax extension this year, which means that your taxes are due soon. Oct. 15, to be exact.

If you have questions about the tax extension date and how to get your taxes filed before the deadline, here are some answers.

If I filed a tax extension, when are my taxes due?

You need to get your taxes in the mail or e-file by Oct. 15, 2020, a Thursday. And don't forget to file both your federal and your state taxes.

Can I get a tax extension on this extension?

For the vast majority of you, no. Depending where you live, there is a chance you will have longer to file your taxes than Oct. 15. If you live in certain counties that have been impacted by the California wildfires, you have until Dec. 15 to file your tax extension; if you live in certain areas where the Oregon wildfires have broken out, you have until Jan. 15.

What if I am not a victim of the wildfires, and I know that I can't get my taxes in order by Oct. 15? Are there any extensions?

Again, no. So give it the old college try – and make an attempt to finish your taxes by the Oct. 15 deadline.

"If you think you might not get it all complete before the deadline, it is best to file with as much information as possible. You can always amend the tax return once you have everything properly compiled. You save a lot in penalties by filing something instead of nothing," says Scott Rawitscher, who owns Collaborative Business Solutions, a firm with offices in Seattle and Portland that provides accounting and other services to small business owners and contractors.

How do I file my taxes by Oct. 15?

You file in the same way you do every year on April 15. (Of course, this year, due to the pandemic, the federal tax filing date was July 15.) In any case, you can file your taxes on your own, and if you do, you may want to get some tax preparation software to help you through your taxes.

There are a lot of online tax preparation websites that will let you do your taxes for free, such as Intuit's TurboTax, Credit Karma Tax, TaxAct, TaxSlayer Simply Free and H&R Block. Some websites, though, are only free if you have simple filings to do. If you're self-employed or have complicated taxes, with some of these services, you may have to pay a fee.

You can also always hire a tax accountant to prepare your taxes.

Do you think it's too late to hire somebody to do my taxes and file by Oct. 15?

"Definitely not too late to get your stuff together and file on time. There are always (certified public accountants) out there available, but you might need to try a few that have the last-minute capacity," Rawitscher says. "Since the deadline is coming up fast, try to be as organized as possible. What often slows up tax preparation is the back and forth to ensure all the information is properly collected."

Mark Steber, chief tax information officer at Jackson Hewitt, a nationwide tax preparation service, says, "It's never too late to work with a tax professional. In fact, all credible and quality tax preparation companies are well staffed with extended hours and services during peak times when taxpayers need to file their taxes – including late January when W-2s are available, Tax Day on April 15, and the extension deadline of Oct. 15."

Depending on where you go, however, if it's really last minute, "be prepared to pay handsomely for rushed tax preparation services," says Katelyn Magnuson, founder of The Freelance CFO LLC, an accountancy for freelancers. Magnuson is based in Boise, Idaho.

How much can I expect to pay?

Generally speaking, rush fees are often 10% to 20% added onto the cost of a tax preparation's service, once you're down to the wire and have a few weeks or less until a tax deadline. The average cost of a tax preparation service, according to a still-often quoted 2017 survey from the National Society of Accountants, is $176 to have a Form 1040 (non-itemized) and a state return prepared. Add a few bucks for inflation and that rush fee, and you could have a pretty high tax preparation bill.

What happens if I miss the Oct. 15 tax extension deadline?

If you miss the Oct. 15 tax extension deadline, it won't be the end of the world, but your bank account will not thank you.

"There are penalties, including failure to file and failure to pay, and interest that will accrue if the deadline is missed," Steber says.

The penalties are not cheap. The penalty for not filing your taxes is usually 5% of the tax you owe for each month or a portion of the month that your return was late. The most you can be penalized for not filing is 25% of the taxes you owe.

It gets confusing because, yes, there is a penalty for not filing your taxes and a penalty for not paying your taxes. The penalty for not paying your taxes is 0.5% of your unpaid taxes for each month that your taxes are unpaid, and there is interest on top of that.

But as you can see, the punishment for not filing is far worse than what you get for not paying.

Ok, I'm convinced. I will try to file my 2019 taxes by Oct. 15, 2020. What sort of paperwork do I need?

It depends on how complicated your taxes are and whether you're a salaried employee or a contract worker.

Magnuson says that some of the common documents that you might want to have to give a tax preparer – or keep on hand if you're going to do your taxes yourself with perhaps some tax preparation software – include:

  • W-2s (A wage and tax statement; if you're an employee, as opposed to a contract worker, you'll have one of these.)
  • K-1s (If you have a business partnership with somebody, you may have one of these.)
  • 1099s (Some of what you might expect to receive, Magnuson says, include 1099-MISC,1099-K, 1099-R, 1099-B, 1099-INT. If you're a contract or freelance worker, you'll be receiving these.)
  • 1098s (Magnuson says 1098s are most commonly seen for mortgages and student loans.)
  • A 1095 (This is a medical and health care form you'll receive if you have a health insurance marketplace plan through
  • Estimated taxes paid for 2019 (That is, you'll want to know how much you paid and the dates, Magnuson says.)
  • Random paperwork. "If you own a business or are self-employed, you'll need the documents that support your income and expenses," Magnuson says.

What if I can't find all of the paperwork that I need?

"If you're waiting to file because you need an additional tax document, consider filing now with what you have and amending your return later," Magnuson says.

Remember those penalties.

What should I do once I have filed my taxes by the Oct. 15 tax extension deadline?

You should probably do what you can to organize your taxes, so you can pay your 2020 taxes by April 15, 2021, rather than going for another tax extension in 2021. Also, think about the holiday shopping coming up and how you're going to pay for that. If you don't know, this might be a good time to think about a new strategy for budgeting and saving money. There's always something to think about and plan for, especially around this time of the year.

Copyright 2020 U.S. News & World Report


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