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From Start to Finish: How to Make Sure You File Your Taxes Right

Nadav ShemerByNadav ShemerFeb. 16, 2020
How to file your taxes correctly

April 15 is to taxes what the Fourth of July is to fireworks and the fourth Thursday in November is to turkey. But although April 15 is officially the last day to file taxes, it’s not the only tax-related date to put in your calendar.

Here we discuss all the important tax deadlines to file taxes – and put forward the case for filing early.

Tax Filing Season 2020: Important Dates

Jan 27: The first day to file taxes to the Internal Revenue Service for 2019. Those early birds who filed in the first few days of tax season can expect to already receive refunds in February.

April 15: The last day to file taxes for 2019. The IRS expects to receive more than 150 million individual tax returns for the 2019 tax year, with the vast majority of those coming before the April 15 tax due date 2020. Note that if you fail to pay and fail to request an extension by April 15, the IRS will impose penalties (with interest).

If you don’t have all the paperwork ready by the April 15 date, you can fill out ‘IRS Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File US Individual Income Tax Return’. As the name states, the extension is automatically granted and you don’t need to give a reason for needing it. N.B. If you request an extension, you are still obligated to pay estimated 2019 taxes by April 15.

April 15, 2020 is also the last day to contribute to an Individual Retirement Account, Health Savings Account, Solo 401(k) Plan, or Simplified Employee Pension for 2019.

June 15: The last day for taxes if you are a US taxpayer living or working abroad or you are in the military and serving abroad. Under US law, if you are a US citizen or green card holder living in a foreign country and earn above a certain threshold ($12,000 for single filing, $24,000 for a married couple filing jointly), you must file a tax return. Taxpayers with a June 15 deadline also have the right to file for an extension by June 15 and file taxes by December 15.

October 15: This is the final deadline to file taxes for 2019 if you requested an extension before April 15.

Important Tax Dates in 2020

Tax season start date
Jan 27
Ofiicial deadline to fiel 2019 taxes (Form 1040)
April 15
Deadline to request 6-month extension (Form 4868)
April 15
Deadline to contribure to IRA, HSA, Solo 401(k), or SEP for 2019
Deadline for US taxpayers living abroad and military personnel on duty outside the US to file 2019 taxes (Form 1040)
June 15
Deadline to file extended 2019 tax return (Form 1040)
September 15

State and Local Taxes

So far, we have discussed only federal taxes. Depending where you live, you may have to file state and/or local taxes. In 37 states and the District of Columbia, the deadline to file taxes is also April 15. The exceptions are:

  • Hawaii: April 22
  • Maine, Massachusetts, April 17
  • Oklahoma: April 20
  • Delaware, Iowa: April 30
  • South Carolina, Virginia: May 1
  • Alaska, Florida, Nevada, Texas, Wyoming: No state income tax.

The Benefits of Filing Taxes – and Doing it Early

Few people genuinely enjoy doing taxes, but there is a silver lining: tax refunds! The average federal income tax refund last year was $2,869, and the year before that it was $2,910. According to a GoBankingRates survey , 27% of people use their tax refund to pay off debt, 25% invest it, and 19% spend it on a major purchase or vacation.

How long will it take to get your tax refund? Unless your return requires more-than-average attention, your refund should be issued in less than 21 days, according to the IRS. Direct deposit is generally one week quicker than a paper check. If you’re among the approximately 90% of Americans who file online, then refund information will be available within 24 hours of the IRS acknowledging receipt. If you mail a paper return, you can expect to wait up to four weeks for a response.

It also pays to file early. According to CPA Practice Advisor, filing during peak season can result in slightly longer waits. Filing can also be delayed if:

  • The return is filed by mail.
  • The taxpayer is claiming certain credits, e.g. Earned Income Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit (because these credits are routinely abused).
  • The taxpayer has existing debts to the federal government.

Wishing You a Fruitful 2020 Tax Season

It goes without saying that this article is intended as a guide only and that, if in doubt, always consult a tax professional. All that’s left for us to do is wish you an easy 2020 tax season and a generous tax refund!

Nadav ShemerByNadav ShemerJun. 13, 2019
Nadav Shemer specializes in business, tech, and energy, with a background in financial journalism, hi-tech and startups. He enjoys writing about the latest innovations in financial services and products.