Tax day for 2020 was pushed back to July 15 to give us all a break as we deal with the financial toll of the coronavirus pandemic.
If you’ve already filed your 2019 tax return, you may not care that the deadline is fast approaching. But there are a few ways that you can still use these final days to your advantage.
3 Things to Do Before July 15 Even if You’ve Already Filed Taxes
Here are three ways you can still milk this year’s 90-day tax extension, even if your 2019 tax return is long behind you.
1. Fund Your 2019 Roth IRA
The deadline for making 2019 IRA contributions would have normally been April 15, 2020, but we all got an extra 90 days when tax day was pushed back.
Because you fund your Roth IRA with after-tax dollars, it’s easy to max out your 2019 Roth IRA contributions even if you’ve already filed. You don’t need to fill out any tax forms. Just specify to your brokerage that you’re contributing for 2019, rather than 2020.
The 2019 IRA contribution limits are $6,000 if you were under 50 at the end of 2019 or $7,000 if you were 50 or older at year’s end.
Note that you could still make a traditional IRA contribution for 2019 even if you’ve filed taxes, but doing so is complicated because you usually deduct your contributions up front. You’d have to file an amended return, which you can only do by mail, and get in line for the IRS to work through its backlog of unprocessed paper tax forms.
2. Max Out Your 2019 HSA Contribution
The deadline for maxing out your 2019 health savings account contribution has also been pushed back to July 15.
Although HSAs are often funded via payroll deductions, you’re allowed to make direct contributions to your account.
If you haven’t submitted your taxes, you can lower your tax bill by maxing out your 2019 HSA contribution. If you have done your taxes, you’ll have to go through the complicated process of filing an amended return that we described earlier to deduct your contribution.
The 2019 HSA contribution limits are $3,500 for single people and $7,000 for families. If you were 55 or older by the end of last year, you can contribute an extra $1,000.
3. Get Your Refund From 2016
If you didn’t file a tax return in 2016, you have until July 15 to file if you want to get your refund. After that, your money becomes the property of the U.S. Treasury.
What if you’re not owed a refund or you miss the deadline? Sorry, but that doesn’t get you off the hook for filing your return.
Past year’s tax returns must be submitted by mail. The official IRS instructions for filing tax returns for a previous year are available here.
3 Last-Minute Tax Tips for People Who Haven’t Filed
If you still haven’t filed yet, it’s time to take action. Here are three tips that will make tax day as painless as possible.
1. Submit Your Taxes Online
The IRS is still processing most returns filed online at normal speed. But if you file a paper return, you’ll be waiting a long time for your tax refund since more than 5 million pieces of mail piled up while the IRS was working remotely.
That’s why the IRS is urging everyone to file electronically. Once you file, you can easily track your return and refund status using the Where’s My Refund feature at IRS.gov.
2. Work Out a Payment Plan if You Can’t Afford Your Bill
If you owe taxes and you can’t afford to pay, hiding from the IRS will cost you. The penalty for not filing a return on time is 5% of your tax bill per month for up to five months, up to 25% of the amount due.
If you file a tax return but don’t pay the bill, the penalty is just 0.5% per month up to 25% of your tax bill.
For most people, it’s pretty easy to apply for a payment plan online and pay your tax bill over time.
3. Consider Filing Even if You Don’t Have to
Even if you don’t make enough money to have a tax filing requirement, you may want to file a return anyway if you earn some income.
About 25 million low- and middle-income Americans qualify for the earned income tax credit, which averages $2,459, but about one-fifth of those who are eligible miss out because they don’t file tax returns.
Not sure how to file? Here are our picks for the best tax software, most of which have free versions. They can walk you through the process in just a few minutes and help you figure out what credits and deductions you’re eligible for.
Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at Codetic. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected]