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Thursday is the federal tax deadline for most Americans who filed for an extension

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  • The deadline to file a tax return for individual taxpayers with extensions is October 15.
  • A tax extension gives you an extra six months to file your return beyond the original April deadline. 
  • Payments are usually due by the original deadline, not the extension deadline, unless you've worked out a payment plan with the IRS.
  • You may be charged a penalty if you miss the October 15 deadline to file your return.
  • Some active military members and people in federally declared disaster zones have additional time to file.
  • See Business Insider's picks for the best tax software »

Thursday is the final tax deadline of the year for most Americans.

Taxpayers who previously filed for an extension must submit their 2019 federal tax return by October 15.

Filing for an extension with the IRS is a simple process and gives the taxpayer an additional six months to file beyond the original April 15 deadline. A tax extension doesn't postpone a tax bill, however. Payments are due by the original tax deadline, or the taxpayer faces penalty and interest charges.

This year, the coronavirus pandemic prompted the IRS to delay the federal tax deadline — for payment and filing — to July 15, but the extension timeline remained the same. 

Two types of taxpayers do not have to meet the October 15 deadline: members of the military serving in a combat zone and people in federally declared disaster areas who already had valid tax extensions. 

Penalties for filing taxes late

The good news is that if you're expecting a tax refund and don't file your federal income tax return on time, there's no late charge. The bad news is that you won't get your refund until you file.

Even if you filed a tax extension, you're still required to pay any tax you owe by the original deadline or your balance will begin to accrue interest and you will be charged a separate failure-to-pay penalty. Pay in full as soon as you can, or work with the IRS to set up a payment plan.

If you owe taxes and your return is filed more than 60 days after the due date, including extensions, it's subject to a minimum penalty equal to the lesser of 100% of the tax required to be paid on your return or $435, according to current IRS rules. There will also be interest accruing on your balance.

However, if you can prove to the IRS you have reasonable cause for not paying or filing on time, you may be off the hook. Visit the IRS website for more information on penalty relief and payment options.

How to file your taxes online

Many online tax services have partnered with the IRS to allow you to file your federal taxes for free — and sometimes state taxes as well — if your adjusted gross income was less than $69,000 in 2019. You can check your options using the IRS Free File lookup.

If you have a simple enough tax situation, TurboTax, H&R Block, and others will let you file for free regardless of your income level. If you don't meet the requirements to file for free, you'll pay anywhere between $25 to $250 to file prepare your federal tax return using online software, plus an additional fee for state returns.

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