IRS Extends Tax Return Filing Deadline to May 17

Pressure has been building for weeks to give taxpayers more time to file their 2020 federal income tax returns.

picture of a May 2021 calendar
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The IRS has moved the deadline for filing 2020 federal income tax returns from April 15 to May 17, 2021. This change comes after lawmakers, tax professionals, and others put intense pressure on the IRS to give taxpayers more time to file their 2020 federal income tax returns. It will also give the tax agency, which already has a backlog of unprocessed tax returns, more time to adjust its computer systems and forms to account for tax changes made by the recently enacted American Rescue Plan Act – most notably, the $10,200 exemption for unemployment compensation received in 2020.

You can also delay payment of federal income taxes for the 2020 tax year to May 17 without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount you owe. This delay applies to people who pay self-employment taxes, too. Penalties, interest, and additions to tax will begin to accrue on any remaining unpaid balances after May 17.

Estimated Tax Payments

The extended due date doesn't apply to estimated tax payments. These payments are still due on April 15. Income taxes must be paid during the year as you receive it – either through withholding or estimated tax payments. In general, estimated tax payments are made quarterly to the IRS by people whose income isn't subject to income tax withholding, including self-employment income, interest, dividends, alimony, or rental income. Most people automatically have their taxes withheld from their paychecks and submitted to the IRS by their employer.

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Earlier this year, the IRS announced relief for victims of the February winter storms in Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. Storm victims in these states have until June 15, 2021, to file various tax returns and make tax payments. The general due date extension to May 17 doesn't affect the June deadline allowed in Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana.

Extension to October 15

If you need additional time to file after the May 17 deadline, you can request a filing extension until October 15, 2021, by filing Form 4868. This will not extend the time to pay your taxes. You still need to pay any federal income tax due by May 17 to avoid interest and penalties.

State Tax Returns

Some states have already pushed back their own tax return filing deadline…and we expect more states to do the same now that the IRS extended the due date for filing federal returns. Check with the state tax agency where you live for any state tax deadline extensions.

Rocky Mengle

Rocky Mengle was a Senior Tax Editor for Kiplinger from October 2018 to January 2023 with more than 20 years of experience covering federal and state tax developments. Before coming to Kiplinger, Rocky worked for Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting, and Kleinrock Publishing, where he provided breaking news and guidance for CPAs, tax attorneys, and other tax professionals. He has also been quoted as an expert by USA Today, Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, Reuters, Accounting Today, and other media outlets. Rocky holds a law degree from the University of Connecticut and a B.A. in History from Salisbury University.