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How to File Your Federal Taxes

Federal income tax returns are due on July 15, 2020. This provides taxpayers an extra three months due to the coronavirus pandemic. A new law enacted in December 2019 has extended tax breaks but caused delays for many 2019 tax forms, instructions, and publications.

Tax Filing Deadlines and Extension Due to Coronavirus

The deadline for filing federal income taxes is now July 15, 2020. This three-month extension to the normal April 15 deadline comes in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

This extension does not apply to state and local tax returns. To make sure you file those on time, find out the tax filing due dates in your state. If you do not file and pay your taxes on time, you will be charged interest and a late payment penalty. For taxpayers due a refund, there is no penalty for filing a late return.

What the New December 2019 Tax Law Changes Mean for You

A new law signed in late 2019 includes many changes that may affect your 2019 tax return, due to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by April 15. These changes are separate from the big 2017 tax law changes that went into effect last year.

New Law Extends Tax Breaks for Many

The Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020, was signed into law on December 20, 2019. It includes provisions from two acts:

Other changes in the new law include:

  • Reduction in the medical expense deduction floor

  • Energy-efficient homes credit

  • Employer credit for paid family and medical leave

  • Work opportunity credit

  • Special rule for determining earned income 

  • Repeal of maximum age for traditional IRA contributions

  • Expansion of Section 529 plans

For the complete list of affected tax law provisions see the Joint Committee on Taxation List of Expiring Tax Provisions 2020.

These tax breaks are retroactive; you can go back and amend your 2018 tax return to claim them for that tax year. 

Changes Cause Recalls and Delays for Tax Forms, Instructions, and Publications

The timing of the law has caused recalls and delays for many tax forms, instructions, and publications. In some instances, the IRS has updated a tax form but not the instructions for it. You may want to check: 

Do I Need to File a Tax Return?

You may not have to file a federal income tax return if your income is below a certain amount. But, you must file a tax return to claim a refundable tax credit or a refund for withheld income tax. Find out if you have to file a tax return.

File a Federal Income Tax Return

In order to file your taxes, you'll need a few things. First you'll need to know how much money you made. Then you'll need to decide whether to take the standard deduction or itemize your return. Finally, you'll need to submit everything by July 15. The deadline for filing federal taxes in 2020 has been extended to July 15 due to the coronavirus crisis. 

Steps to File a Tax Return

  1. Gather your paperwork, including:

  2. Choose your filing status. Filing status is based on whether you're married. The percentage you pay toward household expenses also affects your filing status.

  3. Decide how you want to file your taxes. The IRS recommends using tax preparation software to e-file for the easiest and most accurate returns.

  4. Determine if you are taking the standard deduction or itemizing your return. The new tax law increased the standard deduction but eliminated some other types of deductions.

  5. If you owe money, learn how to make a tax payment, including applying for a payment plan.

  6. File your taxes by July 15.

Find out how to check the status of your tax refund.

Contact the IRS for Tax Help

For the fastest information, the IRS recommends finding answers to your questions online. You can also call the IRS. This option works best for less complex questions. Keep in mind that wait times to speak with a representative may be long.

IRS Mailing Addresses

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provides mailing addresses for:

  • Tax returns

  • Non-return forms

  • Applications

  • Payments

The correct mailing address to use depends on the purpose of contact and the region of the country you are in:

You can also check a tax form's corresponding instructions for a mailing address.

Extension to File Your Tax Return

If you can’t file your federal income tax return by the due date, you may be able to get a six-month extension from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This does not grant you more time to pay your taxes.

Be aware that the regular deadline for filing federal tax returns has been extended three months, to July 15, 2020, due to the coronavirus crisis. 

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Last Updated: October 19, 2020

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