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Published: Mar 07, 2024 6 min read
Photo Illustration of a woman with a clipboard doing her taxes, sitting next to a big calculator
Mari Fouz for Money

Happy tax season! If you haven’t already filed your 2023 tax return, you'd better get moving soon: Most people only have until the federal tax deadline of April 15 to get their paperwork to the IRS.

This shouldn't come as a surprise. The tax deadline is more or less the same day every year, except when the 15th day of April falls on a weekend or a holiday, in which case the deadline is the next business day. (Recent years had slightly different tax due dates because of the pandemic, but hopefully we're not going to repeat that.)

This year, the IRS began accepting and processing tax returns on Jan. 29. These are the returns taxpayers file for the income they had last calendar year.

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When is Tax Day 2024?

The April 15 filing deadline is known as Tax Day. For the vast majority of taxpayers, it’s the last day to file both their federal and state tax returns.

Most U.S. adults need to file a Form 1040 — or a variation of it — before this deadline. That form, known as the individual income tax return, is for reporting income and claiming deductions. When you file, you’ll also need to pay any income taxes that you owe. (Alternatively, you might receive a refund.)

Whose taxes aren't due on April 15

Residents of two states, Massachusetts and Maine, have a bit more time to file their federal income tax returns this year. These states celebrate Patriot’s Day on April 15, and the District of Columbia commemorates April 16 as Emancipation Day. So in Massachusetts and Maine, the federal tax deadline in 2024 has been moved to April 17.

People who live in federally declared disaster areas may also have more time to file their tax returns. You can see a list of these extensions on the IRS website; this year, residents of San Diego, California; Spokane, Washington; and Providence, Rhode Island, are among the people to whom the IRS has granted tax relief.

Additionally, special rules apply to members of the military and people living abroad.

While most states have April 15 deadlines for income tax returns, nine states don’t collect income taxes, and a few states have later deadlines. For example, Virginia residents have the standard April 15 deadline for their federal taxes, but the state’s income tax deadline is May 1.

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What to do if you need more time to file taxes

If you need more time to file your taxes, you can pay your tax bill in part or in full, indicating to the IRS it's for an extension. That will give you until Oct. 15 to complete your return.

Another option is to file a Form 4868 to get the same six-month extension. (You can do this for free, regardless of your income level, using the IRS Free File program.)

Crucially, an extension gives you more time to get your paperwork together, but it’s not an extension to pay. To avoid a late-payment penalty, you should pay any taxes that you owe by April 15. That will involve estimating the amount you owe, which you can do with the IRS’s 2024 Form 1040-ES worksheet.

It isn’t totally necessary to file a Form 4868 if you’re expecting a refund because you won’t face a late-filing penalty, but experts still recommend doing it in case your calculations are off. If you don’t send payment or fill out this form and it turns out you do owe taxes, you could get hit with a failure-to-file penalty.

When is the last day to file your taxes?

April 15 is the last day for most taxpayers to file their taxes on time in 2024. If you’re e-filing your tax return, make sure to get it done by midnight local time. For those filing their return by mail, you'll need to have your tax forms postmarked no later than the deadline date.

For taxpayers who get the extension, the deadline is Oct. 15.

The IRS will continue to accept electronically filed returns until November, but be careful to avoid penalties if you’re filing any time after April 15.

What happens if you miss the tax deadline?

Missing the tax deadline can lead to late payment penalties and failure-to-file penalties.

The late payment penalty is 0.5% of the unpaid amount per month that you don't pay, up to a maximum of 25%. The failure-to-file penalty is much more severe at 5% of the unpaid amount per month, up to the same maximum. There are also interest charges on unpaid taxes.

Exceptions do exist: If you can show "reasonable cause," you may be able to avoid IRS penalties.

For taxpayers who are eligible for a refund, there are no late penalties for missing the deadline — at least as far as federal taxes are concerned. You should still file your tax return as soon as possible to get your refund and avoid any possible complications like a tax audit.

More from Money:

5 Best Tax Relief Companies of February 2024

Here Are the Federal Income Tax Brackets for This Year

A Quarter of Americans Expect Smaller Tax Refunds This Year

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