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Last-Minute Tax Filing Tips

Consider these six strategies in the weeks leading up to the July 15 federal tax filing deadline.

Kallee Feuz May 8, 2020

As the coronavirus pandemic disrupts the regular rhythm of life, even Tax Day looks different this year.

In response to the crisis, the federal government extended this year’s tax filing deadline to July 15. That means taxpayers have an extra three months to deal with their 2019 taxes without incurring interest or penalties.

The last time the tax deadline was meaningfully extended was in 1955 when the government permanently moved Tax Day from March to April. That move was reportedly to help Americans cope with the increasingly complex tax code.

While the July 15 tax deadline likely won’t endure past 2020, here are six tips to consider before Tax Day.

Tax filing tip #1: Don’t wait to get your refund

Many people are taking advantage of the extra time to file their taxes. The IRS reports that the number of individual income tax returns received is down about 12% from 2019. But just because you have the extra leeway this year, doesn’t mean you should put off filing your taxes. The average tax refund in 2019 was about $2,700 — money that could come in handy for many people.

Keep in mind that stimulus payments (also called Economic Impact Payments) won’t affect tax refunds. So even if a stimulus deposit already landed in your bank account, you will still be paid for any tax refund you are due.

If you haven’t filed a return for 2018 or 2019 tax years, you have double incentive to hurry up and file for 2019: you’ll need to do so in order to get a stimulus payment, not to mention any refund you are due.

Tax filing tip #2: Claim a refund for 2016, 2017 or 2018

Many people don’t know that you can actually claim a tax refund within three years of the return due date. That means if you were due a refund in 2016 but didn’t file a tax return, you still have until July 15 to file and claim your money. Same goes for 2017 and 2018. If you don’t file before the three years has passed, the IRS gets to keep your money.

Tax filing tip #3: Know your state’s tax deadlines

Each state has its own filing deadline, and they don’t necessarily align with the federal government’s deadline.

Idaho state taxes are due June 15 — a month before the IRS deadline. That’s because Idaho's Constitution requires a balanced budget. So, tax money must be in before June 30, the end of the fiscal year, to keep the budget out of the red.

Meanwhile, Utah taxpayers have until July 15 to file and pay their 2019 taxes — the same timeframe required by the IRS.

Tax filing tip #4: Consider a contribution to your HSA or IRA

One possible way to reduce your 2019 taxable income is by contributing to a health savings account (HSA) or individual retirement account (IRA) before July 15.

In 2019, individuals can contribute up to $3,500 in pretax funds for qualified medical expenses, while families can set aside up to $7,000 for HSA coverage.

Similarly, IRA contributions can be tax deductible and help lower your tax burden. Of course, you’ll want to check with a qualified tax professional to discuss your individual situation. The 2019 maximum contribution amount for either type of IRA is $6,000, or $7,000 if you’re age 50 or older.

Tax filing tip #5: Extension or not, pay owed taxes by July 15

If you can’t finish your return by the July 15 tax deadline, file IRS Form 4868 or free file a tax extension at IRS.gov.

Remember, the tax extension gets you more time to file your return, not more time to pay your taxes. You should estimate and pay any owed taxes by the tax deadline to help avoid possible penalties. 

Tax filing tip #6: Explore free filing and tax assistance options

Most individuals and families filing a simple return need not pay to file. Visit the IRS free file website for free filing information.

Additionally, taxpayers earning less than $56,000 per year can get free tax assistance from a certified volunteer. Visit Utah Tax Help to make an appointment with a volunteer in Utah, or go to Boise State’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program web page for information on tax help in Idaho.

Content is offered for informational purposes only and should not be construed as tax, legal, financial or business advice. Please contact a professional about your specific needs.

Kallee Feuz is Public Relations officer for Zions Bank.

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