Series: The ProPublica Free Tax Guide
Free, Fact-Checked Tax Information. That's All.
The IRS is struggling under a mountain of paperwork and grappling with outdated technology, and in the past year it has been tasked with distributing stimulus checks three separate times.
When are taxes due?
2020 federal income tax returns for individuals are now due on May 17, 2021. The IRS announced in March that its tax deadline would be pushed back from the usual date, April 15. “Even with the new deadline, we urge taxpayers to consider filing as soon as possible, especially those who are owed refunds. Filing electronically with direct deposit is the quickest way to get refunds,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in the statement.
The deadline for paying federal income tax for individuals has also moved to May 17, 2021.
Am I eligible for the new tax deadline?
This new deadline applies to individual taxpayers, including individuals who pay self-employment tax.
Do I need to file for a tax extension to be eligible for the new deadline?
No. Taxpayers are automatically eligible for the new deadline.
Does the new deadline apply to all taxes?
No. This applies to all individual tax filers, and it does not include trusts, estates, corporations and other noncorporate tax filers. Quarterly estimated taxes for individuals are still due April 15, 2021, too.
There’s a good chance the new deadline applies to your state taxes. As of April 2021, most states have either followed the IRS’ lead and delayed their tax deadlines until May 17, or have extended their deadline further. But each state is different. Here is an updated list of how each state has approached its 2021 tax deadlines in response to the coronavirus.
Can I still file for an extension?
Yes. Individual taxpayers can still ask for an extension to October 15, 2021, by filing Form 4868.
Will my tax refund be delayed?
No. The IRS says that most tax refunds are still being paid within 21 days of filing. The IRS encourages taxpayers to file electronically with direct deposit as it’s the quickest way to receive your refund. While the IRS continues to accept paper forms, it has a severe paperwork backlog and strongly urges e-filing. Here’s how to track your tax refund.
If I already filed and set up automatic payments, will those automatically be delayed until May 17?
No. If you used IRS Direct Pay or its Electronic Federal Tax Payment System and set it up to take your tax payment out of your account on April 15, it will still do that. You can change the date there manually, so long as you do so two days before the scheduled payment. If you authorized an electronic funds request, you can contact the U.S. Treasury’s financial agent two days before the scheduled withdrawal date at 888-353-4537 to reschedule.
Do I have to pay to have my taxes prepared with the new deadline?
And if you made less than $72,000 in 2020, there is almost certainly free and easy software you can use to file your taxes. Even if you made more than that, you might still be able to file for free using tax prep software.
About this guide: ProPublica has reported extensively about taxes, the IRS Free File program and the IRS. Specifically, we’ve covered the ways in which the for-profit tax preparation industry — companies like Intuit (TurboTax), H&R Block and Tax Slayer — has lobbied for the Free File program, then systematically undermined it with evasive search tactics and confusing design. These companies also work to fill search engine results with tax “guides” that sometimes route users to paid products. ProPublica’s guide is not personalized tax advice, and you should speak to a tax professional about your specific tax situation.