The final day to file taxes is May 17. What you need to know before Tax Day


You have one week to file your 2020 income tax return. Don’t snooze. 

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The IRS’s new tax deadline is now just one week away. If you have yet to get your taxes filed, you may want to consider filing for a tax extension if you think you’ll miss the due date. But do keep in mind that this tax season stimulus check payments and adjusted gross income are related: If you were eligible for a “plus-up” payment on your third stimulus check, you could see that additional money with your tax refund

If you don’t plan to file — or you just haven’t done so yet — you could be missing out on extra cash in your pocket. We’ll explain why filing your tax return is important and how moving it back could affect you. Your tax information is also essential in determining how much you’ll get with the new child tax credit — to find out how much you qualify for, use CNET’s child tax calculator. It’s also easier to file now than to retroactively claim child tax credit money or missing stimulus check money by having to file a payment trace in the future. 

If you did file your 2020 tax return but you’re still waiting on your refund, we’ll tell you how to track it here. You might also want to know why that letter from the IRS on your third stimulus payment is important, how your tax return could give you up to $50,000 in credits and benefits and how your state might owe you hundreds of dollars. This story is updated regularly.

Why are taxes this year connected to stimulus plus-up payments?

The IRS is looking at your 2020 federal taxes to determine if it underestimated the amount of money you received with the third stimulus check. If the IRS based your payment on your 2019 tax return but your 2020 federal tax return shows you qualify for more money for that third payment, the IRS will send you the difference as a separate plus-up payment.

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How does the May 17 tax due date affect my stimulus check?

The IRS uses information on your 2020 tax return, if it has it, to determine the amount you’d get in your third stimulus check. Specifically, the IRS looks at the AGI, or adjusted gross income, on your 2020 form to help figure out your payment by using a new stimulus check formula

But the tax agency will use your 2019 return if your 2020 taxes haven’t been accepted by the time your payment is sent. That could work in your favor if your income from 2019 was lower than your income from 2020 (you won’t have to return the money in most cases). 

However, if your 2020 tax return would bring you a larger third stimulus check, like if you have more dependents, you’ll want to file as soon as possible, so the IRS processes your 2020 taxes before releasing your third stimulus check. Here’s what people who don’t normally file taxes should know.

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What do I need to know about 2020 taxes and the revised child tax credit?

The child tax credit is different this year. You’re eligible for more money per qualified child, and eligible parents will start receiving checks as soon as July on a monthly basis through the end of 2021. A second sum will arrive with next year’s tax refund. Your 2021 AGI is crucial for determining how much money you’ll actually get, and unlike stimulus checks, you will need to return any overpayment.

Also, you need to file your taxes by the May 17 deadline to ensure you qualify for the child tax credit payments. This will help the IRS know everyone in your family who qualifies you for the payment.

Is the May 17 deadline crucial if I’m missing stimulus money?

Your federal tax returns this year are also how you’ll recover any money the IRS owes you from the first two stimulus checks. If you either didn’t get a payment or got less than you were eligible to receive, you can claim that money on your federal tax forms as a rebate credit when you file this year. That goes for nonfilers, too — those who aren’t normally required to file a tax return. If you wait to file your taxes closer to a new, later due date, you’re also waiting to receive your money, which will be bundled into your tax return.


Your taxes are tied to your stimulus payment. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Is the May 17 federal deadline the same as my state’s tax return deadline?

This year, according to the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, 36 states have shifted back their deadline. Check with your state’s tax agency for the specific deadline.

What should I do if I can’t file before the May 17 deadline?

If you need time beyond May 17, you can file a tax extension, which gives you more time to complete and send your paperwork to the IRS. The IRS said individual taxpayers don’t need to file forms or call the IRS to qualify for the extension.

The new extension doesn’t get you off the hook for estimated tax payments, however. The IRS said the May 17 deadline doesn’t apply to those who make estimated payments, which were still due on April 15.

For more details on taxes this year, we spell out the difference between a tax refund and a tax return and how tax season is different in 2021.