I wish I’d never filed an extension on my personal income taxes. It’s become a bad habit.
The IRS allows you to file a six-month extension every year, if you so choose. If you file a request for an extension by the normal filing deadline of April 15 and have paid 90% of what you estimate you’ll owe, you won’t face a penalty.
I don’t know about you, but when I am given an extension, I usually take it. In Park City, Utah, the ski resorts are open until April 15 (some even longer, depending on the snow conditions). This year, my son got married on April 4 at a beautiful winery in Southern California. Do you think I was focused on filing earlier this year? Nope, I was focused on playing.
The October 15 deadline is approaching, however, so I’d better get cracking on my taxes. October 15 is the final deadline for individual tax returns. If you don’t file by then, you may face penalties. I know, because one year I actually forgot to file altogether.
I forgot to file my mother-in-law’s return by the extension due date, and it could have been a disaster. I’ll never forget the day! Her tax return was so easy I could fill it out in paper form — no tax preparation software needed. You’d think if it were that easy, I’d have just filled it out, gone over everything with her, and sent it in. Well, I didn’t — lesson learned.
Fortunately, my mother-in-law didn’t owe anything, since her income was minimal and she’d already paid estimated taxes. There was no penalty due (since I caught it early enough) — only my humiliation. Of course, I would have covered any penalties, since it was my neglect.
The good news is, if you are due a refund, there is no penalty or fee as long as you file within 60 days of the filing date or extension date. According the the IRS, “If you file your return more than 60 days after the due date or extended due date, the minimum penalty is the smaller of $135 or 100 percent of the unpaid tax.” So if you were really late and were due a refund, the IRS may impose a penalty of $135.
If you owed the IRS money, it’s a different story. If you are late AND owe, there is essentially a double penalty: You owe a “failure to file” fee of 5% of the unpaid taxes for each month your return is late, and you must pay a “failure to pay” penalty on the unpaid taxes. That normally comes to 0.5% of the unpaid taxes each month (going back to the due date). Ouch!
Note that the maximum you’ll pay for any month is 5%. The IRS states in 8 Facts on Late Filing, ”If both the 5 percent failure-to-file penalty and the ½ percent failure-to-pay penalties apply in any month, the maximum penalty that you’ll pay for both is 5 percent.”
If you are a tax-preparation procrastinator like me, this is your reminder to file by midnight on October 15 for your 2015 taxes.
Don’t worry, I’ll remind you again this time next year.
Nancy L. Anderson, CFP is a financial planner in Park City, Utah. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter as well on the Official blog of Deer Valley Ski Resort.