Forbes – September 17, 2020

Did you file for an extension for your 2019 federal income tax return? If so, you have about a month remaining to file: the deadline to file your federal income tax return on extension is on or before October 15, 2020.

October 15 is the same deadline to file a federal income tax return on extension in any normal year.

But since this year has been anything but normal, some taxpayers may not be aware of the due date.

2020 Wasn’t A Normal Year

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) gives you six months from the due date to get your tax return in – and still be timely – if you for an extension. If you do the quick math for individuals, that’s April 15 + six months = October 15.

But here’s where it gets tricky. This year, because of COVID, the due date was July 15, not April 15. But the request for extension starts ticking from the original due date (that’s April 15) and not the revised due date (that’s July 15). That means that all individuals must file their federal income tax returns on extension on or before October 15 even if you made the request to extend in July. Got it?

Automatic Extension Of Time To File

Some taxpayers are entitled to an automatic extension of time to file without having to do anything. That includes:

  • Members of the military and others serving in combat zones or hazardous zone areas generally have until at least 180 days after they leave the zone to file returns and pay any taxes due.
  • Taxpayers affected by natural disasters may have extra time. For more details, check the disaster relief page on the IRS website.

Consider Filing & Paying Electronically

The IRS recommends that taxpayers and tax professionals file electronically, when possible, to support social distancing and speed the processing of tax returns, refunds and payments. Electronic filing options , including IRS Free File , remain available.

You should also consider paying electronically. I am still receiving reports from taxpayers who have mailed checks to the IRS that remain uncashed. The IRS has acknowledged that this is a problem, noting last month that “If a taxpayer mailed a check (either with or without a tax return), it may still be unopened in the backlog of mail the IRS is processing due to COVID-19.”

And if you’ve already mailed your payment, it will eventually be posted. The IRS says that “Any payments will be posted as the date we received them rather than the date the agency processed them.” Whatever you do, don’t cancel your original check. Just because it hasn’t been cashed or credited doesn’t mean that it has gone missing: it’s likely just temporarily diverted.

With that history, it should be clear that the fastest way to get your payment acknowledged this go round is to pay electronically. You can schedule your federal tax payments through the October 15 due date. There are a variety of ways to pay including by wire, electronic funds withdrawal from a bank account, IRS Direct Pay , or with a credit card, debit card or digital wallet option through a payment processor .

Expecting A Tax Refund?

If you’re expecting a refund, the IRS encourages taxpayers to use direct deposit . Direct deposit is faster than waiting for a paper check to arrive in the mail. If you need to check on your refund, you can use the Where’s My Refund? tool on the IRS website.

Forgot To File For Extension?

While it’s always a relief to have your tax return over and done with by the due date, it’s not the end of the world if that doesn’t happen. Even if you did not request an extension and have not filed your 2019 tax return, you should file and pay as possible to reduce any penalties and interest that might be due.

By Kelly Phillips Erb, Senior Contributor

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