Most federal tax returns are due; those who can’t pay should still file on time

COVID Tax Tip 2021-68, May 17, 2021

The filing and payment deadline for most 2020 federal tax returns is here. Taxpayers should file or request an extension of time to file and pay any taxes they owe by the May 17 deadline to avoid penalties and interest.

Here are some tips for taxpayers who owe tax, but who can't immediately pay their tax bill.

Taxpayers should:

  • File their tax return or request an extension of time to file by the May 17 deadline.

    • People who owe tax and do not file their return on time or request an extension may face a failure-to-file penalty.
    • Taxpayers should remember that an extension of time to file is not an extension of time to pay.
      • An extension gives taxpayers until October 15, 2021 to file their 2020 tax return, but taxes owed are still due May 17, 2021.
  • Pay as much as possible by the May 17 due date.

    • Whether filing a return or requesting an extension, taxpayers must pay their tax bill in full by the May filing deadline to avoid penalties and interest.
    • People who do not pay their taxes on time will face a failure-to-pay penalty.
    • has information for taxpayers who can't afford to pay taxes they owe.
  • Set up a payment plan as soon as possible.

Some disaster victims, taxpayers living overseas, military service members and eligible support personnel in combat zones have more time beyond the May 17 deadline to file and pay their taxes.

Taxpayers should also check their state filing and payment deadlines, which may be different from the federal May 17 deadline. A list of state tax division websites is available through the Federation of Tax Administrators.

More information:

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