Tax Filing Deadlines and Penalties

Man sitting on floor surrounded by documents.

The following is presented for informational purposes only.

Tax time is stressful. Even if you're on track to get a refund and your tax status is as simple as it could possible be, there's still work involved. You need to gather the right documents, fill out forms, maybe even put something in the mail (good luck remembering where you put the stamps).

Oh, and there's a time limit on these things. And if you miss the cut off, you can be hit with some costly penalties. 

So let's dive into tax return deadlines: when do you need to file, how do you request an extension, and how much is missing the deadline going to cost you?

Tax filing deadlines

When's the cut off for filing your tax return? This one's simple enough, right? April 15. It's pretty much always April 15 unless April 15 falls on a weekend or a holiday.

For 2024, the deadline is Monday, April 15, unless you live in Maine or Massachusetts, in which case it's Wednesday, April 17 thanks to Patriot's Day and Emancipation Day.

Also, if you were recently impacted by a natural disaster, your deadline may have been shifted to give you more time. Taxpayers impacted by recent severe storms in Connecticut, West Virginia, Michigan, and Maine have all had their deadlines pushed back to June 17, 2024, for example.

The April 15 deadline goes for individuals and businesses alike.

Other notable tax deadlines

  • January 16, 2024 - 4th Quarter 2023 estimated tax payment is due.
  • January 31, 2024 - Employers required to send W-2 forms no later than this date.
  • April 15, 2024 - Tax day!
  • April 15, 2024 - Deadline to request an extension.
  • April 15, 2024 - Deadline to make IRA and HSA contributions for 2023 tax year.
  • April 15, 2024 - First quarter 2024 estimated tax payment is due.
  • June 17, 2024 - Second quarter 2024 estimated tax payment is due.
  • September 16, 2024 - Third quarter 2024 estimated tax payment is due.
  • October 15, 2024 - The last day to file your taxes if you requested an extension.
  • January 15, 2025 - Fourth quarter 2024 estimated tax payment is due.

How to file for an extension

Not ready or able to meet that April 15 deadline? Luckily, the IRS will allow you to file for an extension which buys you some more time. Typically, the extension gives you until October 15 to file your tax return.

To request an extension, simply complete IRS form 4868 and return it by mail or electronically. There's no pleading your case. If you ask for an extension you'll almost certainly get one.

What if I think I owe money to the IRS?

The extension gives you more time to complete your return. It doesn't, however, push back the due date on any money owed to the IRS. If you owe money, that money is still due on April 15.

Your best bet is to pay all or at least some of your estimated income tax due. In fact, if you make a payment without filing your taxes, the IRS will automatically process an extension for you. Failing to make payment could result in penalties and fees.

Even if you can't make a payment you should still file for an extension. The IRS typically charges separate "failure to file" and "failure to pay" fees, so filing for an extension can at least save you from the failure to file penalty, which can be steep.

What if I'm owed a refund?

If you've got money coming to you and you file an extension that simply means that your refund won't be processed until you file your return. There's no potential penalty in that circumstance, but you won't be reunited with your money until you finish filing your return.

What's the penalty for missing the deadline?

The IRS will hit you with some stiff penalties if you don't follow the rules or make the required tax deadlines. For most taxpayers, the biggest penalties to worry about are for failing to file on time and failing to make a payment on time.

Failure to file

Per the IRS, "The Failure to File penalty is 5% of the unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month that a tax return is late. The penalty won't exceed 25% of your unpaid taxes."

Except it's a bit more complicated than that, because if you're hit with both a failure to file and a failure to pay penalty, the penalties don't stack and instead the total combined penalty becomes 5% for each month the return is late.

On top of that, if you're more than 60 days late filing your return you can be hit with a minimum penalty of $485. 

Again, though, it's complicated. You may want to try a penalty calculator like the one at if you don't want to do the math yourself (I don't blame you).

Failure to pay

The basic calculation for the failure to pay penalty, per the IRS, is "0.5% of the unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month the tax remains unpaid. The penalty won’t exceed 25% of your unpaid taxes."

If you start a payment plan with the IRS, the penalty is reduced to 0.25% per month. And yes, that means you'll still be accruing charges even if you're on a payment plan. 

Additionally, you can be hit with penalties for a variety of tax-related infractions, including (but not limited to):

  • Filing inaccurate returns (claiming incorrect income or deductions)
  • Claiming erroneous refunds or tax credits
  • Bouncing checks to the IRS
  • Underpaying your taxes

Does the IRS charge interest?

You bet they do! The IRS will charge interest on unpaid taxes and outstanding penalties. If you owe the IRS for pretty much any reason, they will charge interest on that balance.

The only way to effectively stop interest from accruing is to pay your balance in full.

The actual interest rate charged by the IRS changes quarterly. As of this writing, the rate for corporate and non-corporate (that is, individuals like you) underpayment is 8%.

The moral of the story: make you sure you don't miss that April 15 deadline. And if you can't hit that deadline, don't forget to request an extension.

If you're dragging your feet filing your taxes because you're worried about a tax bill, our financial experts may be able to help you create the necessary space in your budget to handle that bill. We offer free financial counseling 24/7, online and over the phone, all designed to help you understand your options and make better choices with your money. No judgment, just sound advice.

Tagged in Taxes

Jesse Campbell photo.

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI, with over ten years of experience creating valuable educational materials that help families through everyday and extraordinary financial challenges.

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