IRS reminds taxpayers of May 17 deadline for individual income tax returns: extensions, other help available

IR-2021-114, May 17, 2021

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service reminds taxpayers that the deadline for filing most individual income tax returns this year is May 17. The agency also wants taxpayers who have yet to file their tax returns to know that there are a variety of options available to help them.

IRS tax help is available 24 hours a day on Whether filing a tax return, requesting an extension or making a payment, the IRS website can help last-minute filers on just about everything related to taxes.

The IRS encourages taxpayers to file electronically. Doing so, whether through e-file or IRS Free File, vastly reduces tax return errors as the tax software does the calculations, flags common errors and prompts taxpayers for missing information. Free File Fillable Forms means there is a free option for everyone.

Request more time

Anyone who needs more time to file can get it. The easiest way to do so is through the Free File link on In a matter of minutes, anyone, regardless of income, can use this free service to electronically request an extension on Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

Taxpayers are reminded, however, that an extension of time to file is not an extension of time to pay. To get the extension, taxpayers must estimate their tax liability on this form and pay any amount due. Tax payments are generally due by the May 17 filing deadline, and taxpayers should pay as much as they can to avoid possible penalties and interest.

Taxpayers paying all or part of their income taxes, due by the May 17 deadline, with IRS Direct Pay, the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) or a credit or debit card will get an automatic extension of time to file. By selecting "extension" as the reason for the payment, there is no need to separately file a Form 4868. Taxpayers will also receive a confirmation number after they submit their payment. When paying with Direct Pay and EFTPS, taxpayers can sign up for email notifications.

Any payment made with an extension request will reduce or, if the balance is paid in full, eliminate interest and late-payment penalties that apply to payments made after the May 17 tax filing deadline.

Alternatively, people can complete a paper copy of Form 4868 and mail it to the IRS. The form must be mailed and postmarked by the filing deadline. Download and print it from

While an estimated 16 million taxpayers will request an extension of time to file, others automatically qualify for more time to meet their tax obligations.

Who automatically has more time to file?

The IRS automatically provides filing and penalty relief to any taxpayer with an IRS address of record located in areas covered by Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster declarations. For details on all available relief, visit the Around the Nation page on Deadlines for individual and business tax returns and make tax payments are extended for taxpayers in:

Special rules may apply for some military personnel serving in a combat zone or a qualified hazardous duty area. This also applies to individuals serving in the combat zone in support of the U.S. Armed Forces. A complete list of designated combat zone localities can be found in Publication 3, Armed Forces' Tax Guide, available on

U.S. citizens and resident aliens living outside the United States have until June 15, 2021, to file their 2020 tax returns and pay any tax due.

Additional May 17 extended deadlines

May 17 is also the deadline to make 2020 contributions to: health savings accounts (HSAs) and Archer medical savings accounts (Archer MSAs); individual retirement arrangements (IRAs and Roth IRAs); Solo 401(k)s and Simplified Employee Pension plans (SEPs) as well as Coverdell education savings accounts (Coverdell ESAs).

Employment taxes are also due May 17 for household employees including housekeepers, maids, babysitters, gardeners and others who work in or around a private residence as an employee. For more information, see Publication 926, Household Employer's Tax Guide.

Also, tax-exempt organizations that operate on a calendar-year basis need to file certain annual information and tax returns by May 17.

Unclaimed 2017 refunds

The IRS estimates 1.3 million taxpayers did not file a 2017 tax return to claim tax refunds worth more than $1.3 billion. The three-year window of opportunity to claim a 2017 tax refund closes May 17, 2021, for most taxpayers. If they do not file a tax return by May 17, the money becomes the property of the U.S. Treasury.

Direct deposit for a faster refund

The fastest way to receive a refund is to file electronically and use direct deposit. The best way to check on a refund is the Where's My Refund? tool available on and the IRS2Go mobile app.