It’s been an interesting tax-filing season, to say the least. Not only did the IRS open it up late, but the agency recently made the decision to delay the tax-filing deadline from April 15 (the standard deadline) to May 17.
A big reason for this change was that the recently signed American Rescue Plan — the $1.9 trillion relief bill that paved the way for $1,400 stimulus checks — includes a tax exemption for up to $10,200 of unemployment income. Because tax preparers needed time to account for this change, the IRS decided to push back the filing deadline, giving procrastinators everywhere a reason to celebrate.
But while you may now get another month to complete your taxes, it could still pay to file your return in time for the original April 15 deadline. Here’s why.
1. You don’t want to delay your refund
The majority of tax-filers get a refund year after year, and if you’ve generally gotten one yourself, there’s no reason to expect the 2020 tax year to be different unless your financial picture changed significantly. If that’s the case, the sooner you get your taxes done, the sooner the IRS can send that money your way.
Right now, the IRS is juggling tax refunds and the distribution of stimulus checks, and we don’t know if refunds claimed closer to the May 17 deadline will be subject to delays. If you’re not waiting on documentation to complete your return, then you might as well get it done with quickly.
2. You don’t want to delay an old stimulus
Last year, there were two separate stimulus payments that went out. The first was worth up to $1,200 and the second maxed out at $600. If you never received a stimulus from 2020 but believe you were eligible, your only option for getting that cash is to claim it in the form of the Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2020 tax return. But the longer you wait to file your taxes, the more you’ll delay that stimulus — money you should’ve actually gotten last year.
3. You may need time to strategize if you owe money
Though most people who file a tax return wind up with a refund on their hands, you may land in the opposite boat where you owe the IRS money. And if that’s the case, you’re better off finding that out this week than closer to the May 17 deadline. That way, you’ll have more time to come up with a plan for fulfilling that debt.
Say you discover you owe the IRS $1,000, but you didn’t max out your IRA for 2020. You may decide to contribute more to your retirement plan to wipe out that tax debt. But if you wait until the last minute to get your taxes done, you might miss the deadline for funding that account.
Just because you get more time to file your taxes this year doesn’t mean that waiting pays off. Not only could filing sooner benefit you financially, but it might help you sleep better at night knowing you’ve gotten one cumbersome task done with.
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