WASHINGTON —Taxpayers who owe tax and file their federal income tax return more than 60 days after the deadline will usually face a higher late-filing penalty. For that reason, the Internal Revenue Service urges affected taxpayers to avoid the penalty increase by filing their return by Thursday, June 14.
Ordinarily, the late-filing penalty, also known as the failure-to-file penalty, is assessed when a taxpayer fails to file a tax return or request an extension by the due date. This penalty, which only applies if there is unpaid tax, is usually 5 percent for each month or part of a month that a tax return is late.
If a tax return is filed more than 60 days after the April due date — or more than 60 days after the October due date if an extension was obtained — the minimum penalty is either $210 or 100 percent of the unpaid tax, whichever is less. This means that if the tax due is $210 or less, the penalty is equal to the tax amount due. If the tax due is more than $210, the penalty is at least $210.
The late-filing penalty does not apply to the more than 135 million taxpayers who met this year’s April 18 deadline to file their individual tax return. It also won’t apply to the estimated 14 million taxpayers who asked the IRS for a six-month extension of time to file, as long as they file by Oct. 15, 2018. Though a tax return claiming a refund is also not subject to penalty, the IRS reminds taxpayers that, by law, they only have three years to file for the refund.
For those who did not file or request an extension, the IRS recommends filing by June 14 to avoid a penalty increase. The late-filing penalty will stop accruing once the taxpayer files.
In addition, the IRS urges taxpayers to pay what they owe to avoid additional late-payment penalty and interest charges. The late-payment penalty, also known as the failure-to-pay penalty, is usually ½ of 1 percent of the unpaid tax for each month or part of a month the payment is late. Interest, currently at the rate of 5 percent per year, compounded daily, also applies to any payment made after the original April 18 deadline.
After a return is filed, the IRS will figure the penalty and interest due and bill the taxpayer. Normally, the taxpayer will then have 21 days to pay any amount due.
Taxpayers can use their online account to view their amount owed, make payments and apply for an online payment agreement. Before accessing their online account, taxpayers must authenticate their identity through the Secure Access process.
Penalty relief may be available
Taxpayers who have a history of filing and paying on time often qualify to have the late filing and payment penalties abated. A taxpayer usually qualifies for this relief if they haven’t been assessed penalties for the past three years and meet other requirements. For more information, see the First-Time Penalty Abatement page on IRS.gov.
Even if a taxpayer does not qualify for this special relief, they may still be able to have penalties reduced or eliminated if their failure to file or pay on time was due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect. Be sure to read the penalty notice carefully and follow its instructions for requesting this relief.
Many taxpayers delay filing because they are unable to pay what they owe. Often, these taxpayers qualify for one of the payment options available from the IRS. These include:
- Installment Agreement – An installment agreement, or payment plan, allows a taxpayer to pay over time. Individuals who owe $50,000 or less in combined tax, penalties and interest can request a payment plan using the IRS’s Online Payment Agreement application. Those who have a balance under $100,000 may also qualify for a short term agreement. The agreement can usually be set up in minutes and requesters receive immediate notification of approval. To reduce the chance of default and avoid having to write and mail a check each month, select the direct debit option for making these payments. For other ways to set up a payment plan, visit Payment Plans, Installment Agreements.
- Offer in Compromise — Some struggling taxpayers may qualify to settle their tax bill for less than the amount they owe by submitting an offer in compromise. To help determine eligibility, use the Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier tool.
Special filing deadline rules apply to members of the military serving in combat zones, taxpayers living outside the U.S. and those living in declared disaster areas. For those who qualify, these special deadlines affect any penalty and interest calculations. Visit IRS.gov for details on these special filing rules.
Taxpayers who owe tax for 2017 can avoid having the same problem for 2018 by increasing the amount of tax withheld from their paychecks. For help determining the right amount to withhold, use the Withholding Calculator on IRS.gov