In a year when normal tax filing deadlines were postponed because of the pandemic, there is one more important date to note: Oct. 15.
That’s the deadline for filing your 2019 income tax return if you got an automatic filing extension this year. The regular April filing deadline was extended to July 15 because of the coronavirus. As usual, though, tax filers could still get extra time, until mid-October, simply by submitting a form.
The Internal Revenue Service didn’t have statistics immediately available on the number of extensions filed this year. A spokesman said there might have been fewer because regular filing was delayed until July.
Some tax preparers, however, said they had more clients use extensions. “It has been a crazy year,” said Trish Evenstad, a director of the National Association of Enrolled Agents, a group for federally licensed tax specialists. “I had a lot more on extension this year than normal.”
Separately, unless the federal government acts to extend it, Oct. 15 is also the deadline for low-income people who typically don’t file a tax return to claim their $1,200 stimulus payment.
More than 160 million Americans have already received their payments, according to the I.R.S. The payments were approved this year as part of the federal government’s coronavirus relief program.
But about nine million people who may qualify for the payments had yet to claim them as of mid-September, the I.R.S. said. People with no or low income — below $12,200 for an individual and $24,400 for couples — typically aren’t required to file a tax return, so they should register with the I.R.S. to get the payment. (People who receive Social Security or other government benefits should have already received payments automatically, although some had to take additional steps to get the extra $500 payments for their children.)
In September, the I.R.S. mailed letters to the nine million as part of an outreach campaign. The letter urged them to register on the agency’s website by Oct. 15, by using the “Non-Filers” tool, to receive a payment by the end of the year. Individuals can get up to $1,200 and couples up to $2,400, and people with children under 17 can get an extra $500 per child.
The I.R.S. has been working through a large backlog of paper tax returns and correspondence that accumulated during the coronavirus shutdown, so filing returns and making payments electronically is advisable, said Cari Weston, director of tax practice and ethics with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
And note: If you owed taxes on your 2019 return, they were due by July 15. An extension to file until Oct. 15 didn’t grant you more time to pay any tax owed, said Rhonda Collins, director of tax content and government relations with the National Association of Tax Professionals.
If you still can’t pay your full bill, pay as much as you can when you file your return, Ms. Evenstad said, to reduce penalties and interest owed. You can request a payment plan for the balance.
It’s best not to wait until the last minute, if you are paying electronically, to avoid any technical snafus. If you prefer to pay by paper check, it’s wise to make a copy of the check, and be sure to check the I.R.S. website for the correct mailing address.
Here are some questions and answers about the Oct. 15 stimulus deadline:
How soon after I register can I track my stimulus payment?
People can start checking the status of their payment, using the “Get My Payment” tool on IRS.gov, two weeks after they register, the I.R.S. says.
I’m not required to file a tax return. If I don’t register for the stimulus payment by the deadline, will I forfeit the money?
No. “It’s not lost forever,” Ms. Collins said. You’ll have another chance, by filing a federal tax return next year and claiming a “recovery rebate” credit. But you won’t get the money until 2021.
I filed my tax return for 2019, but I haven’t received a stimulus payment. What can I do?
Use “Get My Payment” to check the status of your payment. If you get a “payment status not available” message, it may mean that you are ineligible for the payment or that your tax return “has not been fully processed,” according to the I.R.S. website.
There are a “great many” possible reasons that you may not have received a payment, an I.R.S. spokesman said in an email.
For instance, the I.R.S. aimed to push payments out as quickly as possible in April and May, amid the economic slowdown. It based the stimulus payment amount on 2019 tax returns if they were available, but otherwise used 2018 returns. If taxpayers didn’t qualify based on their 2018 information, they wouldn’t receive a payment. (In that case, filers will have the chance to re-evaluate their eligibility, and receive the money as a credit when they file their 2020 return next year, the spokesman said.)
Also, in the spring, the government sent payments to about four million people on prepaid debit cards delivered in plain envelopes. Some recipients may have thrown them away by mistake, according to the Taxpayer Advocate Service, an office within the I.R.S.
In July, the card issuer mailed letters to recipients who had not activated their cards, informing them of how to request a free replacement card if they “inadvertently” tossed it out, according to the federal government. If you think you may have discarded your card, contact the Economic Impact Payment card customer service at 800-240-8100, consumer advocates advise.