In early 2020, pretty much everything in life came to a halt. This meant school, travel, and—for a period of time—taxes. The tax deadline was delayed for three months. Many taxpayers wondered if the tax deadline would get delayed again in 2021.
Here's the rundown of the 2021 tax deadlines, and what to know about paying taxes whether you're a traditional employee or self-employed.
Starting date and deadline for filing taxes this year
The tax season for 2021 started on Feb. 12. This is later than normal—the season usually starts at the launch of the calendar year. For most people, most years, the deadline for filing your taxes is April 15.
On March 17, 2021, the IRS announced it would push the deadline a month into the future, so returns are now due May 17, 2021. The delay will be a relief to tax accountants who have been feeling the pressure after losing more than a month of their usual filing season.
Why taxes were delayed in 2020
The 2020 tax season was delayed by a quarter because of the societal uprooting caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Taxes weren't due until July 15, 2020.
There was also a shift in deadlines for quarterly estimated taxes for self-employed individuals. The first quarterly payment was pushed back to July. The second quarterly payment was still due in June.
Some people haven't received their tax returns from 2020. The IRS is still backed up with last year's filings. The IRS even sent out a notice to about 260,000 taxpayers earlier in the year that they didn't file their 2019 taxes in 2020—only to correct that statement and say they hadn't processed them. Despite that, the IRS is trucking ahead and setting deadlines, perhaps in an effort to keep things moving like they are meant to.
Taxes are further delayed for residents of Texas and Oklahoma
Some have even longer than May 17 to file their 2020 tax returns. Due to the life-threatening utility outages in Texas and Oklahoma during the winter storm in February, residents in those states have a 2021 tax filing deadline of June 15.
A natural disaster or another disaster that occurs anywhere in the country ahead of the new May 17 deadline could impact others as well, although this is a mere possibility.
The federal delay also doesn't affect state and local income tax deadlines, and in many states, April 15 still holds as the deadline to file.
It's worth noting that refunds might be slow-going for this year's tax returns. This is especially true if you file for the earned income tax credit, additional child tax credit, or paid sick leave credit (for self-employed individuals). Applying for these credits automatically creates a delay in your full return.
How to file for a payment extension during tax season
Visit the IRS website to file for an extension on your tax return. There are unique forms for individuals, corporations, and other entities.
The IRS notes a few key points here, one of which is that a filing extension doesn't mean that you can't pay your taxes on time. Individuals on W2 income won't have a problem with this, but it's important for self-employed individuals to note. Also, taxpayers must file the extension before the original deadline in order to be granted the grace period.