Editorial: Tax filers get a welcome reprieve as usual April 15 deadline pushed back to May 17

For many people who have procrastinated, panic sets in during the middle of this month --most years -- as they scramble to file their state and federal tax returns by the usual date of April 15.

But 2021, much like 2020, isn't like most years. Your federal and state tax returns aren't due Thursday, thanks to a time extension of a little over a month.

The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service announced last month the federal income tax filing due date for individuals for the 2020 tax year was extended from April 15 to Monday, May 17. The Georgia Department of Revenue made the same filing date change.

Last year, the tax filing deadline was pushed back some three months to July 15 due to COVID-19.

"This continues to be a tough time for many people, and the IRS wants to continue to do everything possible to help taxpayers navigate the unusual circumstances related to the pandemic, while also working on important tax administration responsibilities," IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a press release on March 17. "Even with the new deadline, we urge taxpayers to consider filing as soon as possible, especially those who are owed refunds. Filing electronically with direct deposit is the quickest way to get refunds, and it can help some taxpayers more quickly receive any remaining stimulus payments they may be entitled to."

Individual taxpayers who need more time to file beyond the May 17 deadline can request a filing extension until Oct. 15 by filing form 4868 through a tax professional, tax software or by using the Free File link on IRS.gov. That form allows taxpayers until Oct. 15 to file their 2020 tax return, but does not give them more time to pay taxes due. Taxpayers should pay their federal income tax due by May 17 to avoid interest and penalties.

Federal and state officials realize the pandemic is far from over, giving filers a bit of a cushion to get their tax documents together and file their returns. The extra time will be a godsend for many Georgians as we all continue to navigate through these difficult times.

We encourage you to gather your necessary documents and file your tax returns so that the middle of May doesn't turn into a panicky part of the month.

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