Did you miss the April tax deadline? File NOW, even if you can't pay

May 09, 2019

This article has been reproduced with permission from the IRS. Subscribe to IRS tax tips here.

While the federal income tax-filing deadline has passed for most people, there are some taxpayers who have not yet filed their tax returns. The Internal Revenue Service encourages them to file now, even if they can’t pay to avoid potential penalties and interest.

There are many ways the IRS offers help to taxpayers facing this situation. The IRS offers these simple tips for handling some typical after-tax-day issues:

For those who didn’t file by the April deadline

There is no penalty for filing late if a refund is due. Penalties and interest only accrue on unfiled tax returns if taxes are not paid by April 15 — the tax filing deadline this year in most states. Because of local holidays, the deadline for taxpayers living in Maine or Massachusetts was April 17, 2019.

Anyone who did not file and owes tax should file a tax return as soon as they can and pay as much as possible to reduce penalties and interest. IRS Free File is still available on IRS.gov through Oct. 15 to prepare and file returns electronically.

Some taxpayers may have extra time to file their tax returns and pay any taxes due. Some disaster victims, military service members and eligible support personnel in combat zones, and U.S. citizens and resident aliens who live and work outside the U.S. and Puerto Rico, have more time to file and pay what they owe.

For taxpayers whose 2018 federal income tax withholding and estimated tax payments fell short of their total tax liability for the year, the IRS provided penalty relief. This means that the IRS is now waiving the estimated tax penalty for any taxpayer who paid at least 80 percent of their total tax liability during the year through federal income tax withholding, quarterly estimated tax payments, or a combination of the two.

What happens to those who wait to file?

Filing soon is especially important because the late-filing penalty and late-payment penalty on unpaid taxes adds up quickly under the law. Ordinarily, the failure-to-file penalty is 5 percent of the tax owed for each month or part of a month that a tax return is late; However, this penalty is reduced for any month where the failure to pay penalty also applies. The basic failure-to-pay penalty rate is generally 0.5 percent of unpaid tax owed for each month or part of a month. For more see IRS.gov/penalties.

But if a return is filed more than 60 days after the April due date, the minimum penalty is either $210 or 100 percent of the unpaid tax — whichever is less. This means that if the tax due is $210 or less, the penalty is equal to the tax amount due. If the tax due is more than $210, the penalty is at least $210.

In some instances, a taxpayer filing after the deadline may qualify for penalty relief. For those charged a penalty, they may contact the IRS and provide an explanation of why they were unable to file and/or pay by the due date.

Additionally, taxpayers who have a history of filing and paying on time often qualify for penalty relief. A taxpayer will usually qualify if they have filed and paid timely for the past three years and meet other requirements. For more information, see the first-time penalty abatement page on IRS.gov.

Owe taxes or need to make a payment?

Taxpayers who owe taxes can view their balance, pay with IRS Direct Pay, by debit or credit card or apply online for a payment plan, including an installment agreement. Before accessing their tax account online, users must authenticate their identity through the Secure Access process. Several other electronic payment options are available on IRS.gov/payments. They are secure and easy to use. Taxpayers paying electronically receive immediate confirmation when they submit their payment. Also, with Direct Pay and the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), taxpayers can opt in to receive email notifications about their payments.

"Where’s My Refund?"

Taxpayers who are due a tax refund can track it at “Where’s My Refund?,” available on IRS.gov, IRS2Go and by phone at 800-829-1954. To use this tool, taxpayers need the primary Social Security number on the tax return, the filing status (Single, Married Filing Jointly, etc.) and the expected refund amount. The tool updates once daily, usually overnight, so checking more frequently will not yield different results.

Changing withholding?

Because of the far-reaching tax changes that went into effect last year, the IRS urges all employees, including those with other sources of income, to perform a paycheck checkup. Doing so now will help avoid an unexpected year-end tax bill and possibly a penalty. The easiest way to do that is to use the Withholding Calculator, available on IRS.gov.

Need to fix an error on a tax return?

After filing their return, taxpayers may discover that they made an error or omitted something. Usually an amended return is not necessary if a taxpayer makes a math error or neglects to attach a required form or schedule. Normally the IRS will correct the math error and notify the taxpayer by mail. Similarly, the agency will send a letter requesting any missing forms or schedules. Taxpayers can use the Interactive Tax Assistant — Should I File an Amended Return? — to see if they should file an amended return or make other changes.

File an amended tax return to change the filing status or to correct income, deductions or credits shown on the originally-filed tax return. Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, must be filed by paper and is available on IRS.gov/forms at any time. Those expecting a refund from their original return should wait until after they receive it to file the amended return.

Then use "Where's My Amended Return?" tool to track the status of an amended return. Normally, status updates are available starting three weeks after the amended return is filed. Allow up to 16 weeks for processing.

Need help responding to an IRS notice or letter?

An IRS notice or letter will explain the reason for the contact and give instructions on how to handle the issue. Most questions can be answered by visiting “Understanding Your Notice or IRS Letter” on IRS.gov. Taxpayers can call the phone number provided in the notice if they still have questions. If the issue can’t be resolved with the IRS through normal channels, contact the local Taxpayer Advocate Service office or call 877-777-4778.

Taxpayer Bill of Rights

Taxpayers have fundamental rights under the law. The Taxpayer Bill of Rights presents these rights in 10 categories. These rights protect taxpayers when they interact with the IRS. Publication 1, Your Rights as a Taxpayer, highlights these rights and the agency’s obligation to protect them.

Watch out for scams

Taxpayers should remain vigilant year-round about tax-related scams. The IRS will never make an initial, unsolicited contact via email, text or social media on filing, payment or tax refund issues. The IRS initiates most contacts through regular mail delivered by the United States Postal Service. Any email that appears to be from the IRS about a refund or tax problem is probably an attempt by scammers to steal personal or financial information. Forward the e-mail to phishing@irs.gov.