What Happens if You Miss the Tax Deadline? Taxes, Penalties & Fees, Oh My!

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Missed Tax Deadline Penalties & Fees
Tax Day is right around the corner, and if you have already filed your taxes, that means you can relax – tax season is over until next year! But if you didn’t file your taxes or didn’t file a tax extension, then this article is for you! Let’s take a look at what happens if…

Tax Day is right around the corner, and if you have already filed your taxes, that means you can relax – tax season is over until next year! But if you didn’t file your taxes or didn’t file a tax extension, then this article is for you!

Let’s take a look at what happens if you missed the tax deadline, how you can file an extension, what happens when you don’t file your taxes and you owe money (penalties and fees!), and available options if you can’t pay your taxes.

Don’t  Miss the Tax Deadline!

Let’s start with the most common situation, and the easiest to avoid – missing the deadline to file taxes. There are many reasons you may not be ready to file your taxes yet – including waiting on forms or financial information, big life events, travel, etc.

The reason doesn’t matter too much, as long as you take action. If you think you might miss the tax deadline, then you should immediately file for a tax extension. It’s free and easy.


How to file for a tax deadline extension. Everyone is eligible for an automatic tax deadline extension and the first thing you should do if you missed the tax filing deadline is file for an extension with the IRS. This gives you until October 15th to file your taxes.

However, you should also know that if you owe the IRS money, it is due on April 15th. So even if you file for a tax deadline extension, you need to send in an estimate of the taxes you owe. Failure to do so can result in fines or penalties. (There are no penalties or fees for not filing for an extension if you don’t owe the IRS any money).

You can file for a free tax deadline extension through these means:

Since the tax filing deadline is already close at hand, time is of the essence here, and I would recommend filing electronically if possible.

TurboTax is Easy, Free Edition, Fast Refund

What Happens if You Miss the Tax Deadline?

Again, there are no problems if you don’t owe the IRS any money. But it’s still a good idea to file your tax return—especially if you are due a refund.

The IRS won’t send your refund if you don’t file your taxes. And the longer you wait to file, the longer you wait to receive your refund.

If you owe the IRS money, then you want to do three things: file your extension as mentioned above, make any estimated payments if you have a rough estimate of how much you might owe, then file your return before the October 15 deadline.

Remember, your tax payments are due on the tax deadline (April 15th most years). So if you missed the deadline to file, you should send in a payment for the estimated amount of taxes you owe, otherwise, you may owe penalties.

What Happens If You Don’t File Your Tax Return?

OK, so you missed the deadline and you haven’t filed for an extension. What happens if you let it slide? Penalties and interest, my friend. And they aren’t pretty!

Failure to pay and failure to file penalties. These two types of penalties are automatically assessed by the IRS. Here is a rough outline of the penalties you may owe for failure to file or pay your federal taxes.

  • Failure to file or (FTF) penalty assessed at 5% per month or partial month up to a 25% maximum.
  • Failure to pay (FTP) penalty assessed at 0.5% per month or partial month up to a 25% maximum.
  • If both the FTF and FTP penalties are assessed, the FTF penalty is reduced by the FTP penalty.

Underpayment penalties. You can also owe penalties for underpaying your taxes. These can be assessed at different levels, from a small fine to criminal charges, depending on whether or not the IRS determines there was criminal intent involved. Some of the possible charges include criminal or civil fraud, negligence, or frivolous return. Penalties for these can range from stiff fines to jail time.

Here is more about what happens if you don’t file your federal tax return.

What if You Can’t Pay Your Taxes?

Even if you can’t pay your taxes, you still need to file your taxes or at least file for an extension. This lets the IRS know that you are aware of the situation and you are trying to resolve it.

After you file your taxes or file for an extension, you need to communicate with the IRS and try to negotiate a payment plan so you can pay the IRS your taxes. You can ask for an extension (a set time frame to pay your tax bill), or enter into a payment plan.

Penalties and fees will continue to be assessed, so you will need to pay your taxes as soon as possible – even if that means dipping into your savings or taking out a loan to do so.

You should avoid payday loans, but you might consider a loan from a peer to peer lending company such as Lending Club. They can have the money to you in a matter of days if you qualify for a loan. Another option is using a credit card to pay your taxes.

This isn’t recommended for everyone because there are usually fees and interest rates involved. But it can be better than the alternative, which includes penalties and fees.

If you don’t pay your tax bill, the IRS can file a Notice of Federal Tax Lien, which can damage your credit score and cause other problems.

Failure to file or pay taxes can result in fines, ruined credit, or even jail time

There are stiff penalties for those who fail to pay their taxes, up to an including jail time for the worst offenders. All it takes to avoid these problems is a little bit of time to complete your taxes and file them or at least file for an extension. So get to it!

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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of Cash Money Life. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the IL Air National Guard.

Ryan started Cash Money Life in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about military money topics and military and veterans benefits at The Military Wallet.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free account here.

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  1. Mel says

    I filed 1099 forms today and knew that they were late (had to be turned in by Jan. 31), but I had no idea that there was such a high penalty for turning them in late. Through google I discovered that the late penalty is $50.00 per 1099 form turned in between 1 and 30 days late. I submitted 25 forms, so that’s $1250!

    I was late because I was trying to get Tax ID numbers for everyone that I needed to file for. I got all the Tax id numbers I needed and filed this morning.

    I have 2 questions about this:
    1. How long does it take to receive the late fee letter from the IRS from the date of E-filing the forms?
    2. Does the IRS always charge their stated late fees, or is there a possibility that will either overlook the late fee or forget to charge me the fee?

    Thanks for any help you can provide!

  2. RC says

    I was making an attempt to file an extension using TurboTax at the last minute. 11:55PM. I clicked on extension, entered the estimated amount owed (lots) and then TT told me I had filed my extension and that I did not owe any money.!!? I was sure this was incorrect as I knew that I had to pay the estimate, but TT did not take me anywhere to make payment and as I am trying to figure it out, the witching hour passed. No monies paid, and I did not see how I could have made the extension because as I go back through it tells me that because I have not filed, I can cancel the extension…? Makes no sense to me. Will TT help. Will IRS accept the explanation and reduce fees/fines?

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