Need to file a tax extension? This is what happens to your missing stimulus money if you do

February 20, 2021 0 By boss



You can file an extension on your taxes by April 15.

Sarah Tew/CNET

With tax season here, it’s time to start gathering documents and filing your tax return, if you haven’t already done so. Or maybe you need more time to prepare, and if so, you can file for an extension with the IRS, changing your due date for filing taxes to Oct. 15. While the current deadline is April 15, Democrats are urging the IRS to extend the date to July 15 due to the ongoing pandemic. However, since the only way to get any missing stimulus money is by claiming it on your tax return, what happens if you file a tax extension if you’re also expecting a catch-up payment? And what could happen if a third stimulus check arrives before you file your 2020 taxes?

Millions of Americans are expected to file a tax extension this year due to complexities stemming from unemployment insurance, and for businesses, Payroll Protection Program loans. If you decide to extend your tax filing to a later date, you’ll need to file the extension no later than April 15, 2021. Note that filing a tax extension won’t stop you from having to pay any taxes you may owe. Those will still be due by April 15, otherwise you accrue interest, which you’ll eventually have to pay on top of your income taxes.

Here’s what happens with your missing stimulus money if you request a tax extension this year. Once you do file, here’s how to track your combined refund and stimulus payment. And here’s what to know about a $1,400 stimulus check, and how to calculate the total you could get. This story was recently updated.

Can I still claim the stimulus money I’m missing if I file a tax extension?

Yes. But you should know the only way you’ll get your missing stimulus money is by filing a Recovery Rebate Credit on your taxes — even if you’re not usually required to file taxes. So the longer you wait to file, the longer it’ll take to get your tax refund, which will include your missing stimulus payment.

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When will I get my tax refund?

The timeline for getting your tax refund — or your refund plus outstanding stimulus check money —  depends on when you file. While you have until Oct. 15 to submit your return if you’ve filed an extension, it doesn’t mean you have to wait that long to file. 

For example, if you filed by Feb. 12 — that’s when the IRS started processing tax returns — you could receive your money as soon as Feb. 19. However, if you wait until Oct. 15, the earliest you would get the money is Oct. 22. 

See our chart below for more details on when you can expect your tax refund, which will include your missing stimulus payment.

When to expect your tax refund

If you file on this date This is the soonest This is the latest
Feb. 12 Feb. 19 March 5
March 1 March 8 March 22
April 1 April 8 April 22
April 15 (last day to file) April 22 May 6
Oct. 15 (last day with extension) Oct. 22 Nov. 5

How would a third stimulus check work if it arrives during tax season?

That’s a good question and one we’ll need the IRS to definitively answer when and if Congress approves a third stimulus check

The latest proposal (PDF) would use whichever taxes the IRS has on file at the time it’s ready to prepare your payment. You would need to claim any differences a year from now, when filing for your 2021 taxes in 2022.

We have to see how the IRS will handle this situation for people who file for extensions.

There are 3 options to file a tax extension in 2021

There are three ways the IRS says you can file a tax extension:

Option 1: Pay all or part of your estimated income tax due and note the payment is for an extension using Direct Pay, the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, or using a credit or debit card. 

Option 2: File Form 4868 electronically by accessing IRS e-file using your tax software or by working with a tax professional who uses e-file. Make sure you have a copy of your 2019 tax return.

If you need to find a tax software service to use, and you make $72,000 or less, you can use the IRS Free File Online tool to find the best free filing system. You’ll need to gather the following information: income statements (W2s or 1099s), any adjustments to your income, your current filing status (single, married, filing jointly) and dependent information. If you make more than $72,000, you’ll be able to use the Free File Fillable form when it opens Feb. 12.

Once you enter all your information, the IRS will help determine which option is best for you — for example, it could be IRS Free File Program by TurboTax or TaxSlayer.

Option 3: File a paper Form 4868 and enclose payment of your estimate of tax due. Make sure it’s postmarked on or before April 15.

For more tax information, we spell out the difference between a tax refund and a tax return, how tax season is different in 2021 and three reasons to sign up for direct deposit when you file your taxes.


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