Today Is the Final Tax Deadline For 2020. Here’s How to File for Free

Photo of a mobile phone with the IRS website showing on screen. Getty/SOPA Images

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If you asked for an extension and haven’t filed your taxes yet this year, the final deadline to do it is today, Thursday.

Because of the coronavirus outbreak, the Internal Revenue Service pushed back Tax Day from the usual April 15 to July 15, but the deadline for people who asked for additional time to file taxes hasn’t changed.

That means you have until today, Oct. 15, to file your 2019 federal income taxes. Keep in mind that this deadline is only for filing, not for paying your taxes. Any taxes you owed were still due July 15. 

“If you experienced medical issues or suffered financially during the year, it’s okay to do an extension, but you have to make sure you’re meeting the deadline,” says Brittney Castro, a certified financial planner and founder of Financially Wise Women.

Is This The Final Deadline for Taxes?

Tax deadlines in 2020 have been atypical, but Oct. 15 is the final deadline if you asked for an extension. The only people who qualify for another extension are members of the military serving in combat zones, or people living in certain disaster zones. For example, victims of Hurricane Sally and the Oregon wildfires have until Jan. 15 to file their taxes. 

The IRS looked at your 2018 and 2019 tax returns (if applicable) to determine how much you could receive in the first stimulus check distributed as part of the CARES Act passed in March. It’ll likely be the same process if Congress passes a new stimulus bill, with a second stimulus check, which is why you should file your taxes as soon as possible.

Pro Tip

It can take hours, even days, to prepare and file your taxes. To help speed up the process, use this tax checklist by H&R Block to round up all the documents and forms you’ll need.

Note that this October tax deadline is not related to the Nov. 21 deadline to request a stimulus check for people who haven’t filed taxes. The latter deadline is specifically for Americans who are under the normal income limits for filing a tax return, but are still eligible to receive stimulus checks.

How To File Your Taxes For Free

To maintain social distancing and avoid processing delays, the IRS is encouraging Americans to do their taxes online this year. 

Fortunately, there are plenty of online tools you can use to file your taxes for free.

The IRS Free File program is a good place to start. If you make under $69,000 a year, you can do your taxes for free with this program. It’s available through services like TaxSlayer and H&R Block until midnight ET on Thursday. 

If you make over $69,000 and already know how to prepare your taxes, you can fill out and file free electronic forms yourself. That option is available until next Tuesday, Oct. 20.

There are also online tax preparation websites that will let you do your taxes for free, such as Intuit’s TurboTax, TaxAct, TaxSlayer, and H&R Block. 

But some websites are only free if you have easy, straightforward taxes. It can get more complicated for those who are self-employed or just have complex finances in general, so companies may charge a fee for filings that require more guidance. 

Have questions or need specific help with your taxes? The IRS has answers to frequently asked questions on its website, along with tax information available in over a dozen languages

Remember, an extension to file is not an extension to pay taxes. Interest and late-payment penalties started accruing on unpaid taxes after July 15. For more details on tax penalties and interest charges, read this. If you’re worried about paying your taxes this year, there are several payment options available on IRS.gov/payments

How To Get Your Refund Faster

If you don’t file your taxes by Oct. 15, you may be leaving a sizable chunk of money on the table. 

According to data compiled by the IRS, the average tax refund so far this year is $2,741 — and the sooner you file, the sooner you’ll possibly get yours. 

You can speed up the process by setting up a direct deposit when you file. The IRS says it issues roughly 90% of refunds in 21 days or less. Once you’ve filed, you can keep track of your refund status with the IRS and your state, which will give you an idea of when to expect your money. 

“You have to file your taxes,” Castro says. “If you did the extension, just make sure you get your taxes in before the deadline.”