April 15, 2024

National Tax Day: 10 tips to successfully get your refund

In the United States, Tax Day is the deadline for individual income tax returns to be filed with the federal government. Since 1955, Tax Day has typically been on or just after April 15. Tax Day was established in 1913 with the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment. 

“With the April deadline approaching, we’re witnessing a surge of tax returns being filed in these final hours. We have already processed over 100 million returns, and tens of millions more are expected in the remaining days,” stated IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel during a press briefing.

If you’re among those filing at the last minute, you’re not alone —especially if you anticipate a tax refund. Werfel mentioned that the IRS has already issued over $200 billion in refunds as of early April. He also highlighted that two out of three filers are entitled to a refund. 

National Tax Day: is it the same as tax refund?

Not to be confused with tax refund, tax returns in the United States are reports filled with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or relevant state or local tax authorities (such as the California Franchise Tax Board) to report income and calculate taxes owed. Tax returns are typically prepared using forms provided by the IRS or the appropriate taxing agency. 

The filing of federal tax returns is a legal requirement under federal law. Individuals with gross incomes exceeding a specified minimum threshold must file returns. The standard U.S. individual tax return is Form 1040, with variations like the 1040EZ and 1040A, along with supplemental forms. U.S. citizens and residents earning incomes above a certain level are obligated to file federal income tax returns and pay any applicable taxes. Gross income encompasses most income types, including from legitimate sources; income from illegal activities, like drug sales, is also taxable. Some individuals, such as Al Capone, have faced charges not only for other crimes but also for failure to file federal income tax returns and pay taxes. 

For many Americans, the process of filling out tax forms is more burdensome than paying taxes themselves. According to a recent survey by Credello, only 13% of Americans complete their taxes independently, while 53% use online software systems. Numerous companies offer free and paid solutions to simplify tax preparation. 

In the 2024 tax-filing season, the IRS introduced a Direct File pilot program, allowing individuals to calculate and submit federal and some state taxes for free in collaboration with select state tax agencies.

National Tax Day: for most States, deadline is April 15. (Exceptions are Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine and Massachusetts)
For most States, deadline is April 15th.
(Exceptions are Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine and Massachusetts)

According to the Internal Revenue Service’s reminder, here are some ways to avoid mistakes on federal tax returns and to speed up the refunds: 

Collect all tax-related paperwork 

Taxpayers are advised to collect essential documents such as Forms W-2 and 1099, along with any supporting paperwork for tax deductions or credits like educational credits or mortgage interest payments. It’s also recommended to have last year’s tax return handy, as it may be needed for reference. 

Use electronic filing 

Electronic filing methods are recommended by the IRS, such as IRS Free File or alternative e-file service providers. Some taxpayers in 12 states can also use the Direct File pilot program. Electronic filing helps reduce mathematical errors and identifies potential tax credits or deductions for which the taxpayer qualifies. 

It’s crucial for taxpayers to carefully review their tax returns for accuracy. Choosing electronic filing and opting for direct deposit is the quickest and safest way to receive a refund. 

Ensure filing status is correct 

Tax software helps to prevent mistakes in selecting a tax return filing status. If you’re unsure of your filing status, the Interactive Tax Assistant on IRS.gov can help you choose the correct status, because sometimes multiple statuses might apply. 

Make sure the data is correct 

As taxpayer you should make sure to accurately provide the name, date of birth and Social Security number for each dependent listed on every individual income tax return. The SSN and individual’s name should be entered precisely as indicated on the Social Security card. 

If a dependent or spouse lacks a SSN and is ineligible to obtain one, an assigned Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) should be listed instead of a SSN. 

Answer the digital assets question 

Everyone filing forms 1040, 1040-SR, 1040-NR, 1041, 1065, 1120 and 1120S needs to check one box answering either “Yes” or “No” to the digital asset question. The question must be answered by all taxpayers, not just by those who engaged in a transaction involving digital assets in 2023. Taxpayers must report all income related to digital asset transactions. 

Tip: you can check IRS.gov Digital Assets for details on when to check “yes” and how to report the income. 

Report all taxable income 

Most income is subject to taxation, which means that failing to report income may result in accrued interest and penalties. This includes various sources of income such as interest earningsunemployment benefits and income derived from the service industrygig economy and digital assets. For further details, consult Publication 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income

Double check your banking routing and account numbers  

Taxpayers can choose to have their federal refund deposited directly into one, two, or even three accounts. To ensure timely processing and prevent misdirected refunds, it’s important to provide accurate routing and account numbers for direct deposit. 

Furthermore, taxpayers have the option to use their refund to purchase U.S. Savings Bonds

Sign and date the return 

When filing a joint tax return, both spouses must sign and date the return. If taxpayers are preparing their taxes independently and filing electronically, they must sign and authenticate their electronic tax return by entering their adjusted gross income (AGI) from the prior year. Taxpayers can consult Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return for assistance with any questions regarding this process. 

Ensure your address is correct if mailing paper returns 

Taxpayers and tax professionals are encouraged to choose electronic filing when possible. However, for those who need to submit a paper tax return, it’s crucial to confirm the correct mailing address either on IRS.gov or in the instructions accompanying Form 1040 to avoid processing delays. 

Always keep a copy  

Once ready to file, taxpayers should make copies of their signed tax return and any attached schedules for their personal records. Keeping duplicates can assist in preparing future tax returns and performing calculations if they need to file an amended return. Generally, taxpayers should retain records supporting income, deductions, or credits claimed on their tax return until the period of limitations for that specific tax return expires. 

Where can I keep track? 

If you already did the work but haven’t received the refund yet, you can track its status by using the IRS Where’s My Refund? tool online. 

What happens if I can’t meet the deadline? 

Taxpayers requiring more time to file their taxes can easily request a six-month extension until October 15, thereby avoiding late filing penalties. This extension can be requested either through IRS Free File or by submitting Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, by April 15. It’s important to note that while an extension provides extra time for filing, tax payments are still due on April 15 for most taxpayers. 

Alternatively, taxpayers can seek an extension by making a full or partial payment of their estimated income tax and indicating that the payment is for an extension. This can be done using Direct Pay, the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), or a debit/credit card or digital wallet. By doing so, taxpayers avoid the necessity of filing a separate extension form and receive a confirmation number for their records. 

Failing to request an extension and filing late while owing money to the IRS will result in a failure-to-file penalty and interest on any outstanding balance. 

Deadlines by State:

  • Alabama: April 15
  • Arizona: April 15
  • Arkansas: April 15
  • California: April 15
  • Colorado: April 15
  • Connecticut: April 15
  • Delaware: April 30
  • Georgia: April 15
  • Hawaii: April 22
  • Idaho: April 15
  • Illinois: April 15
  • Indiana: April 15
  • Iowa: April 30
  • Kansas: April 15
  • Kentucky: April 15
  • Louisiana: May 15
  • Maine: April 17
  • Maryland: April 15
  • Massachusetts: April 17
  • Michigan: April 15
  • Minnesota: April 15
  • Mississippi: April 15
  • Missouri: April 15
  • Montana: April 15
  • Nebraska: April 15
  • New Jersey: April 15
  • New Mexico: April 15 (April 30 if filing electronically)
  • New York: April 15
  • North Carolina: April 15
  • North Dakota: April 15
  • Ohio: April 15
  • Oklahoma: April 15
  • Oregon: April 15
  • Pennsylvania: April 15
  • Rhode Island: April 15
  • South Carolina: April 15
  • Utah: April 15
  • Vermont: April 15
  • Virginia: May 1
  • West Virginia: April 15
  • Wisconsin: April 15

Disclaimer: The blog articles are intended for educational and informational purposes only. Nothing in the content is designed to be legal or financial advice.