The federal government has given taxpayers a 90-day extension until July 15 to file your taxes -- and, significantly, to make retirement account contributions for 2019. But you should probably still file as soon as possible. Here's why.
1. You don't have to pay when you file.
Most of us are accustomed to sending in our tax return and paying any money we owe at the same time. But even if you file now, you can still wait until July 15 to pay any money you owe. That could be a smart strategy if you're conserving cash these days, as business owners have been advised to do.
2. You'll get your refund sooner.
On the other hand, if you're owed a refund, the sooner you file, the sooner you'll get those funds. That extra cash could be very useful since it's not clear how long or how bad the economic disruptions from the current pandemic will be.
3. Applying for a loan or grant? You may want your 2019 income counted.
Was your income in 2019 higher than in 2018? Are you thinking of applying for a loan under the federal stimulus program? The feds will use your most recent tax return to calculate what you can borrow, so compare your financial performance in both years and decide which you would prefer the government uses in its calculations. If 2018 works better for you, then you should hold off filing until after you've applied for your loan. If 2019 works better for you, you should file now. Even if you aren't currently planning on applying for a loan, file now in case you decide to apply later on.
4. The same goes for unemployment.
The stimulus bill also allows self-employed people to apply for unemployment insurance. While the rules for calculating unemployment vary from state to state, most take into account your earnings in your most recent tax filings. Once again, if 2019 was a better year for you than 2018, you're better off filing now.
The one big exception.
If 2019 was a better year for you than 2018, there's one other factor to consider: The stimulus payment that the government is planning to send to all Americans. The feds will pay $1,200 to individuals with gross incomes of $75,000 or less, $2,400 to couples filing jointly with income of $150,000 or less. There are higher thresholds for families with children. But the more you earn above these amounts, the less of a payment you get, and above $99,000 per individual or $198,000 per couple you won't get a check at all.
The government will use your 2019 tax return to calculate these payments, but if you haven't filed yet, it will use your 2018 return. If you had higher income in 2019, check whether it will put you over the threshold to receive the full stimulus payment, or any payment. If it will, weigh that factor against whether your higher income in 2019 will help you get a bigger loan or unemployment payment. Staying below the threshold for getting the full stimulus payment is the one good argument for holding off on filing your 2019 return.