sparkle-illustration

Register for a NerdWallet account to access simple tax filing for a $50 flat fee, powered by 

ColumnTax Logo

6 Late-Filing Tax Mistakes You Need to Avoid

Assume nothing, and watch the calendar.
Tina Orem
By Tina Orem 
Updated
Edited by Chris Hutchison
6 late-filing tax mistakes you need to avoid

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

Filing an income tax return after the annual deadline usually isn’t the end of the world, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. Here are some common mistakes to avoid if you're filing taxes late.

logo

Simple tax filing with a $50 flat fee for every scenario

Powered by

ColumnTax Logo

With this user-friendly tax software, registered NerdWallet members pay one fee, regardless of your tax situation. Plus, you'll get free support from tax experts. Sign up for access today.

for a NerdWallet account

checkmark

Transparent pricing

Hassle-free tax filing* is $50 for all tax situations — no hidden costs or fees.
checkmark

Maximum refund guaranteed

Get every dollar you deserve* when you file with this tax product, powered by Column Tax.
checkmark

Faster filing

File up to 2x faster than traditional options.* Get your refund, and get on with your life.

*guaranteed by Column Tax

illustration

1. Doing nothing

  • If you plan to file your tax return late, the IRS is usually fine with that. Just request a tax extension by filing Form 4868 to get more time. The catch, however, is that you need to request that extension by the April 15, 2024, tax filing deadline.

  • If you forget to do that, you may incur a late-filing penalty of 5% of the amount due for every month or partial month your return is late. The maximum penalty is 25% of the amount due. So if you owe, say, $1,000 in taxes, that could mean shelling out an extra $250

    Internal Revenue Service. Failure to File Penalty. Accessed Apr 5, 2023.
    .

2. Assuming tax is all you'll owe

Paying later means paying more, because you’ll owe interest on any amount outstanding after the tax filing deadline, even if you get an extension.

  • The IRS may also assess a late-payment penalty, which normally is 0.5% per month of the outstanding tax not paid by the deadline (the maximum penalty is 25%)

    Internal Revenue Service. Failure to Pay Penalty. Accessed Apr 5, 2023.
    . You might be able to catch a break if you’ve paid at least 90% of your actual tax liability by the deadline and you pay the rest when you send in your return.

  • The bottom line is that if you owe taxes, it may be a good idea to pay as much as you can when you request the extension.

3. Assuming you have to ask for an extension

  • If you’re a U.S. citizen or resident who lived and worked outside of the country on the tax filing deadline, for example, you get more time to file and pay without having to request an extension.

  • People affected by certain natural disasters automatically get more time to file and pay, as well; check the IRS' list of qualifying disasters

    Internal Revenue Service. Tax Relief in Disaster Situations. Accessed Apr 5, 2023.
    . Some members of the military also get more time automatically, depending on where they are and what they’re doing.

  • Note though, that an extension gives you more time to file, not more time to pay.

4. Assuming you have six extra months to get it together

The standard extension can buy you an extra six months to file, which gets you until Oct. 15, 2024. But if you’re one of the few who get an automatic extension, don’t assume you have the same amount of time.

  • That out-of-the-country crowd mentioned earlier gets just two extra months to file, for instance; the amount of extra time varies for people affected by certain natural disasters.

  • Members of the military could get more than six months in some situations.

5. Forgetting about your extension deadline

If you miss the Oct. 15 deadline, the IRS can apply that 5% penalty for filing your taxes late. And if your return is over 60 days late, you’ll pay either $485 (adjusted for inflation) or what you still owe, whichever figure is smaller

Internal Revenue Service. Failure to File Penalty. Accessed Feb 9, 2024.
. And remember, that’s on top of what you still owe in taxes.

The good news is that the IRS may throw you a lifeline: You might not have to pay the penalty if you have “a reasonable explanation” for filing late. You can request penalty abatement by calling the IRS or requesting relief in writing

Internal Revenue Service. Penalty Relief for Reasonable Cause. Accessed Apr 5, 2023.
.

logo

Simple tax filing with a $50 flat fee for every scenario

Powered by

ColumnTax Logo

With this user-friendly tax software, registered NerdWallet members pay one fee, regardless of your tax situation. Plus, you'll get free support from tax experts. Sign up for access today.

for a NerdWallet account

illustration

6. Assuming the IRS will hate you

There’s no need to risk making big mistakes on your tax return or missing valuable deductions because you’re rushing to meet the filing deadline and think the IRS will blacklist you for seeking an extension. Filing late is common. In fact, extensions are a fact of life for many investors who don’t get their K-1s, which are statements of income from partnerships, until mid-March.

Get more smart money moves – straight to your inbox
Sign up and we’ll send you Nerdy articles about the money topics that matter most to you along with other ways to help you get more from your money.
logo

Simple tax filing with a $50 flat fee for every scenario

Powered by

ColumnTax Logo

With this user-friendly tax software, registered NerdWallet members pay one fee, regardless of your tax situation. Plus, you'll get free support from tax experts. Sign up for access today.

for a NerdWallet account

Person in NerdWallet attire pointing to the NerdWallet Tax Filing CTA button.