COVID-19 gave you some extra time to procrastinate on your taxes for the 2019 tax year as the IRS extended the filing deadline. That extra time expired on July 15, though, and if you haven't submitted a return yet, you're officially late -- and that can have financial consequences.
For those who still haven't sent in their 1040 form, it may be helpful to consider the advice the IRS has for you.
Here's what the IRS wants you to know if you still haven't filed your tax return
First and foremost, the IRS is urging anyone who is due a refund to submit their tax return ASAP in order to get their money. If you've overpaid your taxes during the year or are eligible for refundable tax credits such as the earned income tax credit or child tax credit, the only way to get your money is to submit a form requesting a refund.
The good news is, there's no penalty for being late in submitting your 1040 form if you're owed money by the IRS. You can send your paperwork in now and still get back the full amount of money the IRS owes you. You do have a deadline, though -- three years from when the return was due. That gives you lots of time to claim your refund for 2019, but there's no reason to wait when you can use the money now.
If you're owed a refund, the IRS recommends submitting an electronic return if you can, rather than a paper one. The agency has a backlog of mailed-in returns to process and it will take much longer to get your refund if you don't e-file.
If you owe money, it's especially important to act ASAP
Those who owe money to the IRS are in a different situation than those who are due a refund, as there is a penalty for not paying on time. In fact, even if you requested an extension to file your return, your tax payment was still due on July 15.
The IRS recommends sending in your payments ASAP to limit the penalties and interest currently accruing on your unpaid tax debt if you missed the deadline. And, perhaps more importantly, even if you cannot pay your taxes yet, you still need to make sure you file your federal returns ASAP if you didn't send in your forms yet.
Submitting your return even when you cannot pay your taxes in full can significantly reduce your penalties because the penalty for simply not paying is much smaller than the penalty for not filing a return. In fact, the failure-to-file penalty equals 5% of the unpaid taxes owed for each part of a month you're late while the failure-to-pay penalty is just 0.5% of the amount of unpaid taxes due.
For returns not filed more than 60 days past the deadline, the IRS also imposes a minimum penalty equaling the lesser of $435 or 100% of the unpaid tax balance. As the agency points out, that can add up quickly.
The good news is, you may be able to qualify to have your failure-to-file or failure-to-pay penalty abated if you've never been late before and you meet certain requirements. First-time penalty abatement may be available for those who haven't incurred any tax penalties for the prior three years, who have filed all returns required, and who have arranged to pay the taxes due. But you've got to file your return to be eligible, so don't hesitate to get your forms in.
Take action today if you've missed the tax deadline
Whether you're incurring failure-to-file or failure-to-pay penalties or you're simply allowing the IRS to hang onto money it owes you, there's no reason to wait any longer to file your tax return.
Submit your forms today, or as soon as you can, and reach out to the IRS about your options if you're having trouble paying. The longer you wait, the more costs you could face, so take action now to put the 2019 tax year behind you for good.