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What is the penalty for filing your tax return late?

It's April and that means the tax filing deadline of April 15, 2019 is quickly approaching. Tax professionals will be working extra hours, but there is no time to delay.

The IRS assesses two penalties if you do not file or pay your tax bill on time. The failure to file penalty is stiffer: 5 percent of your unpaid tax bill. It adds onto your tax bill each month or part of a month your return is late (it caps out at 25 percent).

Is there a minimum penalty?

Yes, a minimum late filing penalty applies for returns that are more than 60 days late.

This calculation is a lesser of two amounts - 100 percent of the amount you were unable to pay on time or $210 for returns that were due between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2019.

How to get your tax return in by the deadline

In 2017, the IRS received about 70 percent of returns via e-file. This allows a taxpayer to file on-time as late as the late evening of April 15. For electronic filings, a transmission date and time stamp will determine if you file on time. The IRS will send an electronic acknowledgement.

For those who still mail their return, the IRS considers your return timely as long as it is:

  • Properly addressed
  • In an envelope with enough postage
  • Deposited in the mail by the due date

This explains the traditional rush to get to the post office before close and postal service extended hours on April 15. The lines will probably not be as long this year with e-filing increasing, but it is still not a good practice to wait until the very last minute.

If you know you are not going to be able to gather all the required records in the next 12 days, file a request for a six-month extension.

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