How to handle missing the Tax Day deadline

Headshot for Amanda Graber, Content Marketing Specialist for ComplYant, a business tax tool for entrepreneurs and small businesses.
By Mandy Graber

Lots of taxpayers procrastinate until Tax Day. However, if that stalling goes on too long, it could mean missing the deadline altogether. If you find you didn’t file your federal tax return in time, you don’t have to panic. There are steps you can follow to get your taxes back on track. 

Check automatic extensions

First, check if you qualify for an automatic extension. Certain taxpayers are automatically given extra time to file and pay their taxes without penalties or interest.  

  • Military members who served or are currently serving in a combat zone may be eligible for a 180-day extension.
  • Support personnel in combat zones or a contingency operation supporting the Armed Forces may qualify for a 180-day extension.
  • Taxpayers outside of the United States, including military personnel on duty who don’t qualify for the combat zone extension, may be eligible for a two-month extension.
Tax relief in disaster situations

The IRS also understands that emergencies such as natural disasters can cause significant disruption to taxpayers’ lives. That is why the IRS often declares an extension for some taxpayers affected by natural disasters. The extension gives taxpayers an additional filing deadline, usually 60 days after the regular due date, to file taxes and pay any tax debts. 

This extension only applies to individuals and businesses affected by a declared disaster area. This includes those who have experienced damage to their home or business or have been forced to evacuate or relocate due to the disaster. This extension is designed to help taxpayers who have had to divert their attention from their taxes to address the emergency situation. It gives them additional time to manage their taxes without incurring penalties or interest. 

In addition to the extension, the IRS also offers other tax relief options to those affected by a declared disaster. This includes allowing taxpayers to claim certain losses related to the disaster on their taxes, as well as the ability to access their retirement accounts without incurring a tax penalty.

Do the math

Determine if you owe the IRS or if the IRS owes you. There’s no penalty for filing late if you’re owed a refund. Of course, you won’t get your refund unless you file. If there’s a chance you may qualify for a tax credit, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Child Tax Credit, you’ll also need to file to claim these benefits. 

If you owe the IRS money, filing as soon as possible is vital. You’re liable for late filing penalties for not your return by the due date. However, you should still file the return even if you can’t pay the entire amount due. Submitting the return will help minimize any potential penalties and interest you may owe. 

The IRS has a long memory. There is a statute of limitation on audits. However, the time on that statute doesn’t start until you file your return. To help protect yourself from a potential audit, it’s best to file.

|Filing a federal tax return late is not ideal, but it can be done. It's essential to take the necessary steps to minimize the impact of filing late and to ensure you comply with the tax laws.

Steps for late filing

If you need more time to file your tax return, the best practice is to request an extension. This will give you an extra six months to file your tax return. However, even if you didn’t file for an extension, you still don’t need to panic. There are steps you can take to minimize the impact of filing late. 

#1 - File your tax return 

To file a late return, you’ll need to complete Form 1040. This form reports income, deductions, credits, and taxes owed. Once you’ve completed the return, you should mail it to the address listed on the 1040 form. Make sure to include a check or money order for the amount due. The IRS Free File tool is also available for eligible taxpayers filing late who wish to file online. 

#2 - Pay any taxes due 

If you owe taxes, you should pay as much as possible to reduce the interest you owe. You can pay with a credit or debit card or apply for an installment agreement with the IRS to spread out the payments. 

#3 - Request penalty relief 

If you can't pay the taxes due and you can't request an extension, you may be eligible for penalty relief. The IRS may waive certain penalties or reduce the penalties you owe if you can show that you exercised reasonable care in filing your return, the failure to pay was due to circumstances beyond your control, or you made a good faith effort to comply with the tax laws. 

#4 - Request interest relief 

You may be eligible for interest relief if you owe interest on taxes due. The IRS may waive or reduce the interest you owe if you can show that the interest was due to a mistake made by the IRS, the interest is excessive, or the interest was caused by a delay beyond your control. 

#5 - Consider filing an offer in compromise 

If you owe more than you can pay, you have options. The IRS offers payment plans. If your tax bill is still a financial hardship, the offer in compromise program may even allow you to negotiate a lower bill. Certain eligibility requirements apply, but the option may be available if you’re concerned about your ability to pay. 

#6 - Contact a tax professional 

If you are in a situation where you owe taxes and can't pay them, it's essential to contact a tax professional to discuss your options. A tax professional can help you understand the tax laws and determine the best approach to resolving your tax debt. 

#7 - Get on track for next year

Start keeping track of tax documents now. It’s best to start keeping track of your finances now, such as your deductions and any estimated tax payments, so you won’t be overwhelmed when you need to gather paperwork next year. Check out the webinar, Bookkeeping and Accounting Secrets for Small Business Owners, to learn how to spend just 30 minutes a month on your bookkeeping. 

Get back on track

Filing a federal tax return late is not ideal, but it can be done. It's essential to take the necessary steps to minimize the impact of filing late and to ensure you comply with the tax laws. Once you’re back on the right track, you can set yourself up to successfully manage your business taxes for the years ahead.

With tools like ComplYant, you can easily stay in sync. An intuitive dashboard uses research and user-friendly interfaces to match your business with applicable taxes and regulations so you never miss a deadline. Managing important taxes dates can mean saving time and money. Offering a free account is just one of the many ways ComplYant is here to help entrepreneurs and small business owners. You can also find many additional resources to help you manage your business taxes. 

Headshot for Amanda Graber, Content Marketing Specialist for ComplYant, a business tax tool for entrepreneurs and small businesses.
By Mandy Graber
Mandy is a seasoned content creator with experience in a wide variety of industries. She works alongside our ComplYant Tax Experts to help make tax-related content more accessible to everyone. In her long tenure as a writer and content creator, she has covered a wide array of topics, including insurance, education, financial technology, and more.

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