When Is the Tax Deadline 2021 and Why It Has Been Extended

The Internal Revenue Service has given Americans an extra month to file their tax returns, with the traditional April 15 deadline pushed back to May 17.

Last year the deadline was postponed to July 15 as the coronavirus pandemic ground life to a halt. While further extensions are possible this year, the IRS hasn't given any indication it will postpone the deadline past May 17 for now.

Here's all you need to know about the new deadline.

When is the tax deadline this year?

Taxpayers have until 11:59 p.m. ET on May 17 to file their tax returns, as opposed to the usual April 15 date. Forms must be postmarked or emailed by the deadline to avoid penalties and interest.

May 17 is also the last day taxpayers owing any money to the IRS can delay payments up to. Those needing more time to file their returns—but, crucially, not return any money they owe—can apply for a further extension until October 15 by filling in Form 4868.

It is worth noting, however, that the new deadline applies only to federal income taxes and returns. Taxpayers should double check if due dates for individual states have changed as not all of them have the same filing deadline as the federal government.

Why has the IRS postponed the deadline?

IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said the IRS had taken the decision to give taxpayers an extra month to file their taxes to help them cope with the unprecedented circumstances caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

While the upcoming tax deadline will be the second time taxpayers have filed their tax returns since the COVID-19 outbreak first hit the U.S., the IRS felt Americans needed all help they could get.

"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," Rettig said in a statement earlier this month.

"Even with the new deadline, we urge taxpayers to consider filing as soon as possible, especially those who are owed refunds."

House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-NJ) and House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) both welcomed the news.

"This extension is absolutely necessary to give Americans some needed flexibility in a time of unprecedented crisis," they said in a statement

"Under titanic stress and strain, American taxpayers and tax preparers must have more time to file tax returns."

The postponement also gives the IRS some breathing room at a time when it's handling a third round of payments to households as part of the coronavirus stimulus bill.

The Internal Revenue Service headquarters building in the Federal Triangle section of Washington, DC. The IRS has extended the tax return deadline to May 17. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images