Here’s the pertinent IRS notice: http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc653.html . Speaking as someone who’s done the exact same thing before, I can tell you that the IRS has never come after me for it. The main thing they’re interested in is whether you’ve paid the tax that’s due. There certainly wouldn’t be criminal prosecution. Take a deep breath and just try to enjoy the satisfaction of having your taxes done.
Don’t freak out; I’m sure it’s fine as others have said. But umm… were you paying them or getting a refund? Because if the latter, the IRS doesn’t care, and you have a period of several years to file. Exceptions are if they can’t obviously tell that you will get a refund, e.g. most of your deductions are Sch. C deductions.
Cecil’s column comes from the time when everyone filed by mail. And it still seems to hold for mailed submissions. A couple years ago I filed a paper return a few days late and didn’t hear from the IRS at all. My state fined me $20 though.
But what about in these new e-file days? I filed on the 17th this year, but made an error. I didn’t see the notification of this until shortly after midnight my time (several hours after midnight in DC), and immediately corrected it and refiled. So I was about a half hour late. It’s much easier for the IRS to tell that e-filings are late. Are they still going to ignore it? (I’m getting a $10 refund (big whoop), if it makes any difference.)
Now, if you read between the lines, what that translates to is:
If you DON’T owe tax and you filed late, the total late-filing penalty is usually five percent of ZERO. If your return is over 60 days late, the minimum penalty for late filing is the smaller of $135 or 100 percent of the tax owed, in other words, the smaller of $135 or zero, which is again ZERO.
Several years ago, I had read that they changed the rules for filing for an automatic extension (Form 4868), such that if one did not owe any tax, then the automatic extension was truly automatic, in the sense that one did not even have to apply for it. One could simply file whenever they wanted to with no penalty. Unfortunately, I cannot find any reference to back me on this.
The IRS was charging me a $55 late fee for last year’s return up until around August. I haven’t heard anything from them since so I don’t know what’s happened with it. They were charging it even though when I called they admitted that I did file on time but later it was found that an error was made on a dependant’s SSN. An error that if it was mailed would not have made the return be called late.
My accountant neglected to report something last year that I gave her the documentation for and we just got the amount due on that and they subtracted from that amount $55 for a non payment penalty. Not sure if it’s the same $55 or why it was subtracted from the tax we owe on a dividend.
If you attempted an e-file on time and received a reject, you have several days to file a correction either electronically or by mail. (I want to say it’s 10 days, but I don’t ever let these things hang around for more than two or three without a final filing.)
If the mistake didn’t generate a IRS reject, the return might be considered late, but there wouldn’t be any penalties when you have a refund.
Zulema, I think the $55 you refer to is the 0.5% per month non/late-payment fee. It’s based on the amount of tax not paid by the April due date and it’s not related to when the return was filed.
I would assume DC time would not matter. Certainly for a postmark local time is what matters. Many large post office stay open until midnight local time to accept last minute returns and postmark them based on local time. Personally I live in Eastern time but file to Kansas City in Central time. I suspect that if I e-filed before midnight central time I’d be fine. Conversely, I don’t know where Alaska or Hawaii residents mail to, but I suspect someplace on the mainland. I’d assume if they e-file by midnight their time they’d be fine as well.