Deadlines and taxes — two of everyone’s favorite words as they stand on their own. When put together, they’ve been known to induce some sighs, shudders, and even the occasional groan. Whether you’ve been known to experience this tax-time trepidation yourself or you’re the type who eagerly looks forward to this time of year, tax deadlines apply to everyone equally.
Most information is available on the website of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS.gov), or within the tax preparation website you prefer, but many useful links are included here for your easy access. No matter what end of the spectrum you land on, we’ve compiled a list of important tax preparation dates to help keep you on task and on track.
When can you file your taxes?
For the extreme non-procrastinators out there, you may feel the itch to get tax preparation off your list the second the New Year’s countdown ends. While technically, you can file your return as soon as you have everything you need to do so, that doesn’t mean you’ll get a response in the same expedited fashion.
Your employer has until January 31 to send out W-2s for the previous year's earnings. Most 1099 forms must also be sent to earners by that date.
If you happen to have your W-2s even sooner (lucky you), you might still have to wait to file. The IRS usually includes a buffer after the first of the year so be aware of key filing dates published by the IRS. If you filed electronically (or mailed in your tax return) the second the new year rolled around, it likely sat in the queue untouched until later in the month. According to The Balance, “There's no advantage in mailing a return any earlier instead of waiting to e-file.”
When are my taxes due?
For the rest of the population, you’re probably more interested in the other end of the spectrum — the last possible day you can file.
Typically, that answer is April 15 of each year. However, some years are a little different for two key reasons: if April 15 lands on a weekend and the following Monday is a holiday, the due date can shift. When tax day falls on a weekend, the deadline is typically pushed out until the following business day.
Sometimes the following business day happens to fall on Emancipation Day — a legally recognized holiday in the District of Columbia. So in a nutshell, this combination of circumstances results in two extra days for you to file.
You can always find the correct date on the IRS website, or you can plan to file before April 15 so you know for sure you beat the deadline. As a tip, don't ask Google and just take the first date you see. The referenced article could be from a previous year.
What about extensions?
If you’re concerned about completing your tax return by the deadline, then you can request an extension. You can do so by filing a Form 4868 application (more information on this can be found on the IRS website). The extension still needs to be formally submitted by the regular due date, but that buys you an automatic six-month extension. If accepted, you will need to get your return completed and postmarked by the October due date for extensions.
It’s also worth noting that just because you’ve filed an extension, it doesn’t mean you won’t receive a penalty for filing late. You’ll likely receive a failure-to-pay penalty that you can learn more about via the IRS website, which can help you assess if the extra time is worth it for you.
When are quarterly tax payments due (for self-employed individuals)?
It's important to know while there are four payments due throughout the year, they are not quarterly. They are grouped into four periods, some of which are two months long and others are four months long. How's that for helpful?
If you are a self-employed individual or otherwise pay "quarterly" taxes, you have a number of payment due dates you'll need to be sure you meet. Typically the due dates are the 15th day of the month following the pay period.
For example, the quarterly taxes for April 1 through May 31 (yes, just two months) are due June 15. The last period of the year, September 1 through December 31, is due on January 15 of the following year.
The same rule of thumb about due dates falling on a weekend being due the following Monday, if it's not a legal holiday. It might just be best to mark your calendar and set a reminder.
When are refunds issued?
According to the IRS website, most refunds are issued within 21 days of when the IRS receives your tax filing.
You can always check the status of your refund by downloading the IRS2Go mobile app, starting 24 hours after they’ve received your e-file return or 4 weeks after they’ve received your paper return. Yep, there's an app for that, even if it is only once a year.
Should you call the IRS?
Yes, but why would you want to call the IRS? You might think, sarcastically, that there is no reason you'd ever want to call the IRS, but there are some definite reasons when you should call the IRS about your refund:
It's been 21 days or more since you e-filed
More than 6 weeks have passed since you mailed your return,
When the "Where's My Refund" app tells you to contact the IRS
What to do if you’ve missed a date
While the temptation may be to find the nearest rock and hide under it, the important thing to do is not panic. File all tax returns that are due as soon as possible, regardless of whether or not you can pay in full according to the IRS.
Even if you are due a refund, if it's been more than three years since you missed the tax deadline (hey, it happens) you'll likely not receive your refund since it expires after three years. It may take time to get everything resolved with the IRS, but believe it or not, the IRS can help. If you are missing tax forms, including employer-issued W-2s, many are available online through the IRS. (This won't necessarily help with state taxes if those are late, too, but you can contact state offices for help, too.)
Don't stress and don't delay
While everyone’s approach and opinion on filing taxes may differ, with tax season in full swing, it’s important to know the deadlines that apply to you. This should help you to get a game plan in place — or at least serve as a reminder to start the process.