Filing Last Minute: You Can Still Get Your Taxes in Without Running to the Post Office
Taxpayers who would normally be scrambling to get their returns finished by Tax Day got a little more breathing room again this year. The IRS originally vowed that there would be no repeat of last year’s Tax Day extension, and although procrastinators don’t have three extra months to get it together like they did last year, the IRS eventually relented and moved the deadline for filing your 2020 tax returns from April 15 to May 17.
If you miss the new deadline without securing an extension, you should expect no mercy from the IRS — fines, penalties, interest, and scary letters will be the backdrop to your first semi-normal summer. Also, keep in mind that this extension applies to federal returns only. Your state may or may not be so generous.
Here’s what you need to know.
Your Local Post Office Might be Open Late… If You Need It
There was a time when rushing to the post office late at night on Tax Day for a hand-stamped postmark that proved you beat the clock was an annual American ritual. Now, the era of people scrambling to snail-mail their taxes at the 11th hour is largely in the past.
The Internet, it turns out, is starting to catch on.
Some post offices still extend their hours on Tax Day, but many others do not. In the cases that they do, it’s unlikely to be midnight, as was standard in the bad old days of stamp licking.
If you live in an outpost without reliable broadband Internet, or if you just don’t trust something you didn’t fold and put in an envelope, consider the following tips. They could save you a bunch of headaches when you drive to the post office to mail your taxes.
- Pay attention to collection hours. Collection hours aren’t always the same as closing hours and could affect your tax-filing postmark deadline. Just because a post office is open late doesn’t mean it’s still collecting mail for that day.
- Know your post office’s last collection time. A post office’s last collection is the time at which the mail is taken for the last period that day — and when it’s actually postmarked. For example, if your post office is open until 9 p.m. on Tax Day 2021, but the last collection time is 7 p.m., you’ll need to get to the post office to mail your taxes before 7 p.m. to meet the May 17 tax postmark deadline. Otherwise, your taxes will be mailed out on May 18.
- Watch out for common tax-filing mistakes. Errors might range from using the wrong amount of postage or writing the wrong address to not including all necessary forms. If you’re still worried about making that May 17 deadline, you might still be able to file for a tax extension. It’s fairly simple, and most filers qualify for a tax extension.
- Most taxpayers will have to file returns with their states as well. You can find this information by checking with your state tax agency to confirm the deadline.
- You can call the USPS directly. Reach it at 800-ASK-USPS (800-275-8777) for detailed information about post office extended hours on Tax Day 2021, collection boxes and mail pickups in your area.
- You can call the IRS directly. Reach it at 800-829-1040 if you have any questions on how to file your tax return, or about your tax refund.
Or, consider filing online. It’s easier, more secure, gets you your refund more quickly, and the IRS prefers it. It prefers it so much, in fact, that you can file right through the IRS website. You can even do it for free, and depending on your income, you can do it for free with a full-service experience that you would pay for elsewhere.
Submit Your Returns at No Cost With Free File
The IRS’ Free File service does just what the name implies — lets you file your taxes for free, depending on your adjusted gross income. There are two options:
- $72,000 or less: You can file your federal taxes for free on a third-party IRS partner site. You can even file your state taxes for free with some partners. There’s nothing to fear — you don’t even have to do any math. You’ll receive guided preparation that will ask you questions and walk you through it, just like on a pay site.
- Above $72,000: You can still file for free, but only your federal returns, and the service is pretty bare bones. It offers only the most basic guidance and calculations, and you’ll have to know how to prepare tax forms. Plus, math.
You’ll need all the same stuff that’s required no matter how you file, like health insurance and mortgage statements, last year’s AGI, your W2s, 1099s, Social Security benefits, and proof of any other income, including unemployment payments. Remember, file on time even if you can’t pay your bill. You can request an extension by Tax Day if you need more time to file, but remember that this just a grace period. You won’t pay any less. Paying your taxes is never fun — but in 2021, it shouldn’t require a trip to the post office.
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