When to File a Tax Return in the USA: Individual Requirements

Understanding when to file your tax return is crucial to stay in compliance with the law and avoid penalties from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This article will explain the critical filing dates and extensions for individuals in the United States.

Calendar Year Filers: The Most Common Scenario

The vast majority of individual taxpayers in the United States operate on a calendar year basis, meaning their tax year begins on January 1 and ends on December 31. For these taxpayers, the standard due date to file the federal tax return is April 15 of the following year. However, when April 15 falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the deadline moves to the next business day. For example, in 2023, the filing date is April 18.

In some instances, extensions are provided to certain areas in the event of disasters. For example, in 2023, taxpayers in disaster areas in Alabama, California, and Georgia have an extended deadline to October 16.

Fiscal Year Filers

Some taxpayers may use a fiscal year instead of a calendar year. A fiscal year is a 12-month period that ends on the last day of any month except December. For those who use a fiscal year, the deadline to file is the 15th day of the fourth month after the end of their fiscal year. If this day falls on a weekend or legal holiday, the due date is extended to the next business day.

Requesting an Extension

If you can’t file by your return’s due date, you can request an automatic 6-month extension to file. But remember, an extension to file is not an extension to pay. Any tax owed should be paid by the original due date of your return to avoid possible penalties. To apply for an extension, you must file Form 4868, “Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return” by the original due date of your return.

For Those Who Haven’t Filed

If you haven’t filed your federal income tax return for this year or previous years, it’s crucial to do so as soon as possible. The IRS generally doesn’t forget, and penalties can accrue over time. If you’re in this situation, it’s advisable to consult a tax professional to understand your best options.

Special Provisions for Members of the Military

Special tax filing and payment rules apply to active military members serving in combat zones, contingency operations, or those hospitalized due to injuries sustained while serving. These individuals have at least 180 days after leaving the designated combat zone or contingency operation to file and pay their taxes.

Additionally, if a taxpayer is affected by a presidentially declared disaster or a terrorist or military action, they may have up to one year after the due date of their return to file and pay taxes, depending on the deadline specified by the IRS.

It’s important to note that taxpayers, including civilians working with the Department of Defense, must notify the IRS directly of their status to qualify for combat zone relief.

Understanding the specific requirements for filing your tax return on time can save you from unnecessary stress, interest, and penalties. If you’re unsure about any aspect of your tax filing requirements, it’s always advisable to consult with a tax professional.

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