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IRS Deadlines, Extensions and Limitations

March 2, 2020

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UPDATE: On March 21, 2020, The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service announced that the federal income tax filing due date is automatically extended from April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020.

Knowing what you must file and when you must file with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can save you a lot of headaches during the tax season. Pretty much everyone understands that April 15 is the big date. However, there are other important dates of which you should be aware. Missing these important dates can lead to penalties and additional scrutiny of your returns. In other words, it is not just a matter of what you tell the IRS but how and when you tell them.

2020 DEADLINES

The table below summarizes the most important IRS tax deadlines for individuals.

DateItemNotes
January 15Fourth quarter 2019 estimated tax payment dueDo you have self-employment or other fourth-quarter income that requires you to pay quarterly estimated taxes? Get them postmarked by this date.
April 15Individual tax returns due for tax year 2019If you have not applied for an extension, e-file or postmark your individual return before midnight on this date.
Individual tax return extension form due for tax year 2019 Do you need more time to prepare your tax return? File your request for an extension by this date to push your filing deadline back to October 15.
First quarter 2020 estimated tax payment due If you have self-employment or other first-quarter income that requires you to pay quarterly estimated taxes, get your Form 1040-ES postmarked by this date.
Last day to make a 2019 IRA contribution If you have not already funded your retirement account for 2019, do so by this date. This deadline applies to contributions to a traditional IRA, deductible or not, and a Roth IRA.
June 15Second quarter 2020 estimated tax payment due If you have self-employment or other second-quarter income that requires you to pay quarterly estimated taxes, get your Form 1040-ES postmarked by this date.
September 15Third quarter 2020 estimated tax payment due Are you making quarterly estimated tax payments? Get your third-quarter payment postmarked by this date.
October 15Extended individual tax returns due Did you file your extension request back in April? Now you need to complete your return and have it postmarked by this date.
January 15, 2021Fourth quarter 2020 estimated tax payment due Are you making quarterly estimated tax payments? Get your third-quarter payment postmarked by this date.

EXTENSIONS AND PAYING THE TAXES YOU OWE

In general, individuals may be granted a six-month extension to file their taxes by completing a simple extension form with the IRS. With that said, an extension to file is not an extension to pay. In other words, if you owe taxes, you must still pay this amount to the IRS by April 15, not October 15 when you submit your return. This rule is counterintuitive to people, and it is not surprising that many people fail to pay on time because they believed filing an extension relieved them of this obligation.

The take home is that you should not put off doing any tax preparation for the year knowing you can file for the six-month extension. This will leave you guessing as to whether you will owe money to the IRS. Rather, you need to familiarize yourself with your tax situation at least enough to determine whether you are going to owe money. If you believe you will, then you should submit both your payment and your extension request to the IRS by April 15. Once you finalize your tax preparation and submit your return, you will receive a refund for any overpayments.

HOW LONG SHOULD I KEEP RECORDS AND WHAT ARE STATUE OF LIMITATIONS?

The IRS says the length of time you should keep a document depends on the action, expense or event which the document records. Generally, you must keep your records that support an item of income, deduction or credit shown on your tax return until the period of limitations for that tax return runs out. In general, the IRS has three years to audit your return from the later of (1) the date your taxes were originally due (i.e., April 15) or (2) the date you filed your return. This is also, generally, the window of time in which you will have to amend your return if you discover an inaccuracy after you file. As such, it is good advice to keep your records for at least three years from the due date (or filing date, if later).

Of course, there are exceptions, and it is often advisable to keep your records for much longer. Most of these exceptions are spelled out on the IRS website, but here are a few of the more common situations:

  • Keep records for six years if you do not report income that you should report, and it is more than 25% of the gross income shown on your return.
  • Keep records indefinitely if you do not file a return.
  • Keep records indefinitely if you file a fraudulent return.

CONCLUSION

In our next post we will discuss the ins and outs of deductions for determining adjusted gross income (AGI) and deductions after AGI. These are the so called allowable above-the-line and below-the-line deductions for determining taxable income.

DISCLAIMER

Dr. James A. Weisel and Dr. Benjamin Akins are faculty members in the Georgia Gwinnett College School of Business. The content of this blog should not serve as a substitute for legal advice from an attorney or accountant familiar with the facts and circumstances of your specific situation. If legal or accounting assistance is needed, we recommend that you seek the services of a qualified professional.