The 2019 tax deadline is April 15 (unless you live in Maine or Massachusetts, where it’s April 17).
Filing after the deadline can cost you. The IRS can assess a failure-to-pay penalty worth up to 25% of your unpaid tax. And if your return is more than 60 days late, the IRS assesses a minimum tax penalty of $210 or 100% of the tax you owe, whichever amount is less.
But there are six more tax moves you must — or should — make by the tax deadline.
1. Make your first estimated tax payment for 2019
- The IRS requires quarterly estimated tax payments from many people whose income isn’t subject to payroll withholding taxes, often independent contractors or those with investment earnings. You’ll need to figure your adjusted gross income, as well as your deductions and credits for the year. IRS Form 1040-ES can help.
- The April 15 annual tax deadline is the first due date for affected 2018 earnings. The others were April 17, 2018, June 15, 2018, Sept. 17, 2018, and Jan. 15, 2019.
2. File your 2015 tax return (yes, 2015)
If you were due a refund in 2015 but didn’t file a return, you have until the April tax deadline to submit that old Form 1040 and claim your money. In 2018, the IRS had more than $1 billion in unclaimed refunds waiting for hundreds of thousands of taxpayers who hadn’t filed their 2014 federal returns. So if you haven’t filed your 2015 return, get to work! Miss this year’s tax deadline, and the U.S. Treasury gets to keep your money.
3. Contribute to or open an IRA by the tax deadline
- You have until the April tax deadline to contribute to an IRA, either Roth or traditional, for the prior tax year.
- The 2018 maximum contribution amount for either type of IRA is $5,500 — or $6,500 if you’re age 50 or older. If your traditional IRA contribution is deductible, earmarking it for 2018 could reduce your tax bill.
- Even if you can’t deduct your contribution, designating it for the previous tax year can help you maximize your retirement account’s growth.
4. Contribute to your Health Savings Account
- April 15 is the deadline to put money into an HSA for the 2018 tax year.
- This medical account, available to individuals who have a high-deductible health plan, provides a tax-saving way to pay for out-of-pocket costs.
- The 2018 limits are $3,450 for an individual HSA owner and $6,900 for a family.
5. File for an extension (but still pay)
- You’ve realized you simply can’t finish your return by the tax deadline. Don’t panic. Instead, file IRS Form 4868. This will buy you six more months — until Oct. 15, 2019, for most taxpayers.
- Remember that an extension only gets you extra time to file your return. You still must pay any tax you owe, or a good estimate of that amount, by the April tax deadline. Include that payment with your extension request or you could face a late-payment penalty on the taxes due.
6. File your state tax return
Most taxpayers also face state income taxes, and most of the states that have an income tax follow the federal tax deadline. Ask your state’s tax department for its due dates and how to get an extension, if necessary. And if you live in Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington or Wyoming, enjoy your totally state-income-tax-free status and focus on your federal filing.