The coronavirus outbreak has led both the Federal and state governments to make a number of changes to the normal tax deadlines for 2020, and the new stimulus law adds another wrinkle to the mix. CNN Underscored has assembled this comprehensive guide to the most frequently asked questions about how and when to file your taxes in 2020.
Q: Do I still have to file my 2019 Federal income tax return on April 15 as usual?
A: No. The IRS has extended the normal deadline for individuals to July 15, 2020. This includes both the requirement to file your return and to pay any taxes owed, so you won’t be charged any penalties or interest during the extension period.
Q: Do I have to do anything to get this extension?
A: Everyone gets this extension automatically — you do not have to request it or have been personally affected by the coronavirus.
Q: So I shouldn’t file before July 15?
A: Not necessarily. If you’re owed a refund for 2019, you won’t be able to get it without filing. The sooner you file, the sooner you can get any money the IRS owes you, which could be useful if cash is tight at the moment. You also might not receive a stimulus payment if you haven’t filed a return for either 2018 or 2019.
Q: Wait, I have to file a tax return to get a stimulus payment?
A: The stimulus payments are technically 2020 tax credits that are being paid out in advance. Since they’re only available to taxpayers up to certain income levels, however, the IRS will look at either your 2018 or 2019 tax returns to know if you’re eligible for a stimulus payment and how much to send you.
Q: What if I didn’t make enough money in 2018 and 2019 to file tax returns either year?
A: The IRS will also look at 2019 Social Security statements provided by employers or your 2019 Social Security benefits to try and determine your eligibility for a stimulus payment. But if none of those apply to you, you may want to quickly file a basic 2019 tax return even if it’s not required to make sure the IRS has the correct information.
Q: Am I going to have to pay extra tax if I receive a stimulus payment?
A: No, the individual stimulus payments aren’t taxable, nor do you have to pay Social Security or Medicare tax on them.
Q: What’s the best way to file my taxes?
A: The IRS offers online options that allow you to file for free, which are good for basic returns. For more complicated tax situations, you may want to take a look at a tax course bundle, or consider tax preparation software from companies such as TurboTax, H&R Block, Tax Slayer and TaxAct. Tax prep companies are also doing taxes using video and teleconferencing to preserve social distancing.
Q: Contributions to Individual Retirement Accounts or Health Savings Accounts are usually due by April 15. Did those get extended too?
A: Yes, the deadline for IRA and HSA contributions for the 2019 tax year has also been extended to July 15, 2020.
Q: What if I have an estimated tax payment due on April 15?
A: The deadline for April 15 estimated tax payments has also been extended to July 15. However, the regularly scheduled June 30 estimated tax payment deadline has not been extended.
Q: How about state tax deadlines?
A: It depends on the state. Some states have extended their own deadlines to match the IRS extension, while others have not extended them at all. You’ll need to check with your state’s tax agency to find out what state extensions are being offered, if any.
Q: What about corporations, trusts, estates and other types of taxpayer entities that have income tax returns due on April 15?
A: The Federal extension covers all those taxpayers as well, but only for income taxes, not employment taxes or any other tax deadlines. Again, check with state agencies for potential extended state deadlines.
Q: What about partnership returns (Form 1065) or S corporation returns (Form 1120S) that were due by March 16, 2020?
A: That deadline did not get extended. Any Federal returns that were required to be filed on the earlier March 16 date should have been filed by then to be considered on time, as well as any returns with filing or payment due dates other than April 15.
Q: What if I need more time to file or pay beyond July 15?
A: Individuals can request an additional extension to October 15, 2020, by filing Form 4868. Businesses and trusts who need additional time can file Form 7004. However, in both cases, any extension beyond July 15 only extends the time to file your return. You still must pay any taxes owed by July 15 in order to avoid penalties and interest.
Q: What if I can’t pay my taxes by July 15?
A: If you’re unable to pay your taxes by the extended deadline, you can apply for an installment plan with the IRS, or even put your taxes on a credit card (make sure to use a credit card with low or no interest). But even if you can’t pay, you should file by July 15, or you’ll pay even more in penalties for not filing.
Q: I still have more questions — what should I do?
A: The IRS has posted additional questions and answers on its website that may address your concerns. The agency also continues to regularly issue notices with additional guidance.
If you decide to call the IRS, the agency is warning taxpayers that “local office closings, limited call site staff and high demand means that there is extremely high call volume. Wait times will be lengthy.”
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