2021 Tax Deadline and Extension Dates (for 2020 Tax Year)

This article has been updated for the 2021 tax season (the 2020 tax and calendar year), after the IRS extended the 2021 tax deadline. It’s January and other than frigid cold temperatures and seasonal mood disorder, you know what that means – tax season has arrived.

When is the 2021 Tax Deadline for Filing (for the 2020 Tax Year)?

The IRS tax deadline to file your tax return has been extended to Monday, May 17, 2021 (from the typical deadline of April 15). A number of state tax deadlines were also extended to match.

I haven’t found any regional exceptions to this with holidays, but if I find any, I will post here.

tax deadline

Tax Filing Postmark & E-File Deadline

The May 17 tax deadline does not refer to when the IRS receives your tax return. Instead, it refers to the date that the tax return is postmarked. So if you mail out your tax return on May 17 by U.S. mail and the IRS receives your tax return after that date, your return won’t be considered late. The same rule applies for e-filing your taxes. If you e-file your taxes, you must do so by May 17 as well.

Note: the HSA Contribution Deadline and IRA Contribution Deadline are the Same as the Tax Deadline

Update: the 2021 HSA & IRA contribution deadlines were extended to May 17 to match the new extended tax deadline, as it did the prior year.

Note that the HSA contribution deadline and IRA contribution deadline fall on the same day as the tax deadline. This means you have a few additional months to contribute for the tax and calendar year, beyond the actual tax and calendar year. You can also open new accounts to contribute to up to the same date. Great news for savers!

When is the Tax Deadline if I’m Out of the Country?

Your tax filing deadline AND payment deadline, if you are out of country, is Tuesday, June 15, 2021. If you are out of country, you have an additional two months to file your taxes (from the typical April 15 date). Those eligible include:

  • Those who live outside the United States and Puerto Rico and main place of work is outside the United States and Puerto Rico, or
  • Those in military or naval service outside the United States and Puerto Rico (there is additional lenience for those in a combat zone, contingent operation, or who have been hospitalized).

If you qualify as being out of the country, you will still be eligible for the extension even if you are physically present in the United States. You must attach a statement to your return explaining which of the two situations qualify you for the extension.

Tax Extension Filing Deadline

If, for one reason or another, you are unable to file your tax return by the May 17 tax deadline, you can file for an IRS tax extension. Note that the extension must be postmarked by the May 17 deadline also.

Also, a key disclaimer – an extension of time to file is not an extension of time to pay. Any taxes due are still due on the normal filing deadline date.

How to File a Tax Extension

In order to file a tax extension, you will need to fill out IRS form 4868. Note that filing the extension does not get you off the hook, you still need to pay any estimated taxes by the May 17 deadline. If you don’t you will owe interest and possibly a penalty on your taxes owed.

The tax extension will allow simply to push back the deadline for sending in your 1040 by 6 months (4 months if you are out of the country). If you’re in country, the extended tax filing deadline is Friday, October 15, 2021.

What are the Estimated Tax Payment Deadlines?

If you make estimated tax payments quarterly, due to earning contractual or self-employed income, here are the 4 quarterly deadlines:

Time Period:Estimated Tax Payment Date:
January 1 - March 31April 15, same year
April 1 - May 31June 15, same year
June 1 - August 31September 15, same year
September 1 - December 31January 15, subsequent year

When is the Tax Filing Start Date?

The tax filing start date this year will be Friday, Feb. 12, 2021 – a 2+ week delay from the typical start date. You can start working on your taxes sooner, however, software companies will hold your returns and cannot submit them to the IRS electronically via e-filing until the tax filing start date. Paper tax returns will begin processing at the same time. Your return will not be processed prior to, and you won’t receive your refund until after your return is processed.

I would strongly caution to not file a return sooner than the tax filing start date, because tax software companies will often update their software to take in to account any IRS changes.

Do I Need to File a Tax Return?

You may be wondering “Do I need to file taxes?“. It’s a fair question. There may be scenarios where you do not need to file taxes, including if your income is below certain minimum income thresholds. However, even in those scenarios, it could still be advantageous to file a return, as you may be eligible for refundable tax credits.

What if I File an Incorrect or Incomplete Return?

If you’ve already filed your taxes, but later found your return to be incorrect or incomplete, here is how to file an amended tax return with the IRS. You may also need to file an amended state return.

When will I Get My Refund?

As a standard, the IRS anticipates issuing more than nine out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days.

However, a newer law requires the IRS to hold refunds on tax returns claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Additional Child Tax Credit until mid-February. Under the change required by Congress in the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act, the IRS must hold the entire refund — even the portion not associated with the EITC and ACTC — until at least Feb. 15 (in 2021 it will be the first week of March). This change helps ensure that taxpayers get the refund they are owed by giving the IRS more time to help detect and prevent fraud.

Also, with the government shutdown, I would not be surprised if there are some delays this year.

After filing, you can always check your tax refund status to see where your refund is at.

Where Should you File your Taxes?

Check out my list of the best tax prep software and best & cheapest ways to e-file for more suggestions. A few of my favorites over the years (with discounts from affiliate partnerships) include:

  1. H&R Block
  2. TurboTax
  3. TaxAct
  4. TaxSlayer

Also, when it comes time to pay your taxes, I would recommend that you pay taxes online, as it is quicker, safer, and more reliable.

Want more tips? Check out my guide on the basics of how to do your taxes.

Tax Deadline, Extension, & Start Discussion

  • When will you start preparing your taxes?
  • Will you be filing a tax deadline extension this year?
  • How are you preparing and filing your taxes this year?

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