Federal Income Tax Deadlines in 2021

Important Due Dates for Filing Your 2020 Tax Return and Payments

Image shows important tax deadlines in 2021, including Jan. 15 for the final quarter estimated payment for 2020 tax year, April 15 for the typical filing deadline for annual tax returns and your first quarter estimated tax payment for the current year, June 15 for second quarter estimated tax payment, Sept. 15 for third quarter estimated tax payment, and Oct. 15 for the final extended deadline for your 2020 tax return.

Image by Catherine Song © The Balance 2020

April 15 is supposed to be the official tax deadline to file your federal income tax return each year, but that date isn't carved in stone. It’s a Thursday in 2021, but the deadline sometimes can be moved to the next business day when April 15 falls on a Saturday, a Sunday, or a legal holiday. 

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) typically begins processing tax returns in late January. It can be expected to announce the exact date for accepting 2020 returns sometime during the first week of January in 2021. Other dates have been announced, but they might be subject to change as 2021 starts.

Deadlines in Calendar Year 2021 for 2020 Returns

Deadlines for annual returns are almost invariably in the spring, with extensions available until the fall:

  • Individual income tax returns: April 15 falls on a weekday in 2021, and it's not a holiday this year, so the filing deadline for your 2020 personal tax return is indeed April 15, 2021.
  • Estimated tax payments for the 2020 tax year (IRS Form 1040): For 2020, these were due on July 15 and Sept. 15. There normally would have been two additional payments for the first and second quarters on April 15 and June 15, but the IRS pushed them back due to the coronavirus pandemic. The fourth and final estimated payment for the 2020 tax year is due on Jan. 15, 2021.
  • Partnership returns (IRS Form 1065): These are due March 15, 2021. The extended deadline is Sept. 15, 2021.
  • C-corporation income tax returns (IRS Form 1120): These are due April 15, 2021, for C-corporations that operate on a calendar year. The extended deadline is Oct. 15, 2021. The deadline for C corp returns is the 15th day of the fourth month following the end of the corporation's fiscal year if the corporation operates on a fiscal, rather than a calendar, year (Ref 2).
  • S-corporation returns (IRS Form 1120-S): These returns are due March 15, 2021, for corporations operating on a calendar year. The extended deadline is Sept. 15, 2021. The deadline for S-corp and partnership returns is the 15th day of the fourth month following the end of the fiscal year, if they're on a fiscal year rather than a calendar year.

The IRS had not yet announced 2021 filing dates for estates, trusts, gift tax returns, exempt organizations, foreign partnerships, and nonresident aliens as of October 2020.

Deadlines Organized by Date

Here are important dates in chronological order, if you prefer to just flip through and mark them on your calendar. They include some additional to-do-by dates that might apply to you:

  • Jan. 11, 2021: Deadline for employees who earned more than $20 in tip income in December 2020 to report this income to their employers on Form 4070
  • Jan. 15, 2021: Deadline to pay the fourth-quarter estimated tax payment for tax year 2020
  • Feb. 1, 2021: Deadline for employers to mail out W-2 Forms to their employees and for businesses to furnish 1099 Forms reporting non-employee compensation, bank interest, dividends, and distributions from a retirement plan
  • Feb. 1, 2021: Deadline for financial institutions to mail out Form 1099-B relating to sales of stock, bonds, or mutual funds through a brokerage account, Form 1099-S relating to real estate transactions; and Form 1099-MISC, if the sender is reporting payments in boxes 8 or 14
  • Feb. 1, 2021: Deadline for catching up on unpaid fourth-quarter estimated taxes without additional penalties by filing 2020 tax returns
  • Feb. 10, 2021: Deadline for employees who earned more than $20 in tip income in January 2021 to report this income to their employers
  • March 1, 2021: Deadline for businesses to mail Forms 1099 and 1096 to the IRS
  • March 2, 2021: Deadline for farmers and fishermen to file individual income tax returns
  • March 10, 2021: Deadline for employees who earned more than $20 in tip income in February 2021 to report this income to their employers
  • March 15, 2021: Deadline for corporate tax returns (Forms 1120, 1120-A, and 1120-S) for tax year 2020, or to request an automatic six-month extension of time to file (Form 7004) for corporations that use the calendar year as their tax year, and for filing partnership tax returns (Form 1065) or to request an automatic five-month extension of time to file (Form 7004)
  • March 31, 2021: Deadline for businesses to e-file Forms 1099 and 1096 to the IRS, except Form 1099-NEC
  • April 12, 2021: Deadline for employees who earned more than $20 in tip income in March 2021 to report this income to their employers
  • April 15, 2021: Deadline to file individual tax returns (Form 1040) for the tax year 2020 or to request an automatic extension (Form 4868) for an extra six months to file your return, and for payment of any tax due
  • April 15, 2021: Deadline for household employers who paid $2,200 or more in wages in 2020 to file Schedule H for Form 1040
  • April 15, 2021: Deadline for first-quarter estimated tax payments for the 2021 tax year
  • May 10, 2021: Deadline for employees who earned more than $20 in tip income in April 2021 to report this income to their employers
  • June 10, 2021: Deadline for employees who earned more than $20 in tip income in May 2021 to report this income to their employers
  • June 15, 2021: Deadline for second-quarter estimated tax payments for the 2021 tax year
  • June 15, 2021: Deadline for U.S. citizens living abroad to file individual tax returns or file Form 4868 for an automatic four-month extension
  • July 12, 2021: Deadline for employees who earned more than $20 in tip income in June 2021 to report this income to their employers
  • Aug. 10, 2021: Deadline for employees who earned more than $20 in tip income in July 2021 to report this income to their employers
  • Sept. 10, 2021: Deadline for employees who earned more than $20 in tip income in August 2021 to report this income to their employers
  • Sept. 15, 2021: Deadline for third-quarter estimated tax payments for the 2021 tax year
  • Sept. 15, 2021: Final deadline to file corporate tax returns for tax year 2020, if an extension was requested (Forms 1120, 1120-A, 1120-S)
  • Oct. 12, 2021: Deadline for employees who earned more than $20 in tip income in September 2021 to report this income to their employers
  • Oct. 15, 2021: Final extended deadline to file individual tax returns for the year 2020 (Form 1040)
  • Oct. 15, 2021: Deadline for taxpayers who earned $69,000 or less in adjusted gross income (AGI) for tax year 2020 to use Free File to prepare and file their returns
  • Nov. 10, 2021: Deadline for employees who earned more than $20 in tip income in October 2021 to report this income to their employers
  • Dec. 10, 2021: Deadline for employees who earned more than $20 in tip income in November 2021 to report this income to their employers

What If You Miss a Date?

You'll probably be hit with a financial penalty, if only an extra interest charge, if you don't submit a return and any payment due by its appropriate deadline. The late filing penalty for a 1040 return is 5% of the tax due per month as of 2020, up to a cap of 25% overall, with additional fees piling up after 60 days. The IRS says you should file your return as soon as possible if you miss a deadline. If you owe taxes, pay them as soon as you can as well. 

On Oct. 19, 2020, the IRS announced tax deadline extensions for individuals and businesses impacted by the California wildfires and Hurricane Delta. Those affected by the California wildfires and who had a valid extension to file their 2019 tax returns by Oct. 15, now have until Jan. 15, 2021, to file their returns and make tax payments. Those affected by Hurricane Delta who had valid extensions to file by Oct. 15, now have until Feb. 16, 2021, to file their tax returns and make payments. This relief applies to areas that FEMA has designated as needing assistance.

How to File Electronically

You might want to e-file your late return, if you haven't missed that deadline as well. Many taxpayers can e-file at IRS Free File, but only if their AGIs were under $69,000 in 2020. Some other rules can apply, imposed by the individual software providers that participate in the Free File Alliance as well. The IRS will accept e-filed returns until November. It will announce the exact cutoff date in November sometime in October 2021.

What If You Can’t Pay Your Taxes?

File your return anyway and immediately apply for a payment plan if you can't pay the tax you owe all at once. The IRS will generally let you pay over time, as long as you make arrangements to do so. 

Go to IRS Direct Pay and have the payment debited directly from your bank account if you owe money and don't want to send a check to the IRS via snail mail, risking the extra time that might entail.

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