The IRS announced extensions to the deadlines for filing and paying 2020 federal income tax returns. However, while taxpayers had until July 15, 2020 to file 2019 returns, this year’s deadline is only extended to May 17, 2021.
Keep in mind that your state income tax filing due date may be different than the federal deadline. This could affect your college savings strategy, since in some states, deadlines for annual 529 contributions that qualify for a state income tax benefit have been also extended.
Here are some important things to know about the federal extension, and other tax deadlines in 2021.
Federal Income Tax Filing Deadline
The IRS is giving individuals an additional month to file and pay their 2020 taxes by extending the deadline to May 17, 2021. Many taxpayers are still facing financial hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the extension is intended to provide some relief.
The May 17 deadline is automatic, but, if you need additional time to file your federal income tax return you can file IRS Form 4868 to request an additional extension. This additional extension will give you until October 15, 2021 to file your 2020 tax return, however your tax payments are still due on May 17, 2021.
In general, past due federal income taxes not paid by the May 17 deadline are subject to penalties and will begin to accrue interest.
If you haven’t filed yet, you can schedule a virtual filing with a tax pro from H&R Block. A virtual filing is an easy way to get professional tax filing from the comfort of your own home.
2021 winter storm relief
The May 17 extension does not change an extended deadline that had already been in place for individuals and businesses in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. The IRS extended the filing and payment date for these states to June 15, 2021, in response to the winter storm disaster declarations issued by FEMA earlier this year.
The extended deadline also applies to self-employed individuals who file quarterly estimated taxes. But, it does not apply to self-employment taxes that are based on 2021 income. That means if you’re self-employed you must pay your first quarterly estimated payment for 2021 by April 15.
State Tax Filing Deadlines
The IRS extension only applies to federal tax deadlines, but states have also extended their due dates for filing and paying income taxes. Of the states that have an income tax, all but five changed their 2021 filing deadline to May 17.
The table below lists the five states that do not have a May 17 filing deadline. Arizona has not yet confirmed their due date, but legislation is pending to move it to May 17.
|State||State income tax filing deadline|
|Arizona||May 17, 2021 (pending legislation)|
|Hawaii||April 20, 2021|
|Iowa||June 1, 2021|
|Maryland||July 15, 2021|
|Oklahoma||June 15, 2021|
529 plan contribution deadlines for state income tax benefits
Over 30 states offer a state income tax deduction or credit for 529 plan contributions. Most of these states have a December 31 deadline for qualifying contributions. However, in six states, the 529 plan contribution deadline is the same as the state’s deadline for filing income taxes.
In these states, taxpayers generally have until April to make a qualifying 529 plan contribution. In 2021, with the exception of Wisconsin, some deadlines are extended as follows:
|State||529 plan contribution deadline|
|Georgia||May 17, 2021|
|Iowa||June 1, 2021|
|Mississippi||May 17, 2021|
|Oklahoma||June 15, 2021|
|South Carolina||May 17, 2021|
|Wisconsin||April 15, 2021|
States typically limit the amount of annual 529 plan contributions that are eligible for income tax benefits, but contributions are fully deductible in Colorado, New Mexico, South Carolina and West Virginia.
The extension also applies to families who open a new 529 plan account before their state filing deadline. For example, Oklahoma residents can open and fund a 529 plan any time before June 15, 2021 and deduct the contribution amount from their 2020 state taxable income.
Other Extended Deadlines
The IRS has also extended other tax deadlines that typically fall on April 15. This includes contribution deadlines for Coverdell education savings accounts (ESAs) and Roth IRAs, which are sometimes used to save for college.
For tax year 2020, families with a modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) below certain limits may contribute up to $2,000 to a Coverdell ESA and up to $6,000 ($7,000 if you are 50 or older) to a Roth IRA. Contributions to these accounts are not deductible from taxable income, but earnings in the account will grow tax-deferred and can be withdrawn tax-free if certain requirements are met.
For example, distributions from a Coverdell ESA are tax-free when the funds are used to pay for qualifying college and K-12 expenses. The extended deadline gives you an extra month to maximize potential tax savings while saving for education.
Other tax deadlines that are extended to May 17, 2021 include:
- Contributions to traditional IRAs for tax year 2020
- Contributions to health savings accounts (HSAs) for tax year 2020
- Deadline to claim a federal tax refund for tax year 2017
The extended deadlines were put in place to support individuals who are experiencing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s important to file and pay your federal and state taxes as soon as possible. Missing a deadline can result in penalties and interest charges, and can delay your refund if one is due.
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Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the 529 plan contribution deadline for Wisconsin was May 17, 2021.