The government has granted everyone an extra three months to file — and pay — their 2019 federal income taxes because of the coronavirus turmoil. But just because you have more time, should you take it?

If you are owed a significant tax refund, for instance, get your return completed and filed quickly so you can get your money.

“If you’re due a refund, you might as well file as quickly as you can,” said Cindy Hockenberry, director of tax research and government relations with the National Association of Tax Professionals, a trade group.

You should also consider whether you expect to qualify for a piece of a $2 trillion relief package that will send payments in the coming weeks to most Americans, based on their income.

People with income up to $75,000 qualify for $1,200. Married couples filing jointly, with income up to $150,000, will get $2,400. (People with higher incomes get less or may get nothing.) Parents also get $500 for each child 16 or younger.

The government is basing the checks on information from 2019 tax returns or, if you haven’t filed yet, on your 2018 return, Hockenberry said.

If you have not filed your 2019 return yet, it may make sense to do a quick calculation to see which year’s return (2019 or 2018) will yield the larger payment.

Another stimulus-related twist: Some people who don’t usually file tax returns, like those with low incomes, will need to file a “simple” return with basic information to receive the stimulus payment, the government has said.

But Social Security recipients who aren’t typically required to file won’t need to file any return, the Treasury Department said. Rather, they will have payments automatically deposited into their bank accounts or mailed to them.

People who lack traditional bank accounts can have checks mailed to them, though an IRS spokesman said it’s possible “another option” may become available.

You can check the IRS coronavirus website for updates.

The three-month extension means that if you owe money for 2019, you can file your return when you are ready, then wait until July 15 to pay your taxes. If you are worried about your job security and believe you won’t have money to pay even with a three-month delay, you can request a payment plan.

If, however, you have the money, it’s your call when to pay. You could file your return and pay now if you are ready, or schedule a payment anytime before July 15.

The delayed filing time also applies to most other tax deadlines, including contributions to individual retirement accounts, Roth IRAs and health savings accounts.


Ann Carrns writes for the New York Times.