If I file my income tax on April 15th and plan to pay with a check, it will take a few days for the check to be delivered. Will I face interest and penalties for those few days for the check in the mailing system?


When sending a tax return to the IRS by mail you need to have the envelope post-marked by 15 April. The fact it may take a week or more for them to receive it, open it, and process the return and check is not important and doesn't cause you to owe interest or penalties.

When US mail was the only way to file, some post offices stayed open until midnight for those last minute filers. If you are going to wait that long to take it to the post-office before they close on the 15th. mDon't drop it in a box on the street, or in front of your house.

Those who are filing electronically need to push the button before midnight on the 15th.

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    I will be filling it electronically, but I will be sending the check by mail – david Apr 9 '19 at 16:07
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    The same applies; the check mailing just has to be postmarked by the deadline. – chepner Apr 9 '19 at 16:08
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    Note that it has to be the US Postal Service. If you use a private company (eg, FedEx or UPS), then the IRS has to receive it by April 15th. – Teepeemm Apr 9 '19 at 16:46
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    @Harper My experience is that local, state, and federal tax authorities cash checks for taxes owed within a week to ten days after me mailing them. Issuing a refund can easily take a month or longer ... – njuffa Apr 9 '19 at 17:54
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    @Teepeemm Incorrect: Approved private delivery services are also included in the IRS policy of "timely mailed is timely filed". – nanoman Apr 10 '19 at 6:32

You must fully pay or overpay by April 15.

A postmark is good enough if it is sent by US Mail (which it has to be anyway since it goes to a PO box). If you're mailing past about April 8, make sure it gets a postmark (not everything does). I recommend handing it to a counter.

If you are not ready to file, you can just pay using Form 4868, which is the correct payment slip and also grants a filing extension*. I like to overpay by a margin just in case I missed something; IRS is very reliable about giving refunds.

* The 4868 filing extension is fairly meaningless. If you still owe after April 15, you're still in trouble. If IRS owes you, the penalty for late filing is $0. The only other penalties are

  • you don't get your refund until you file, obviously
  • After too long, electronic tax services like TurboTax stop supporting that tax year and you must then hand file.
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    Are you sure about that last point. I use H&R Block's software, and I know it asks me a question related to late filing at some point in the wizard; I always assumed that meant it supported doing so. – Dan Is Fiddling By Firelight Apr 9 '19 at 20:40
  • Yeah, what? You can absolutely file for an extension in April, then use tax software from the likes of TurboTax and H&R Block to file your return before October 15th, whether you owe or not. – Zach Lipton Apr 9 '19 at 21:24
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    @DanNeely I never meant to say TurboTax et.al. would lock you out on April 16. Heck, 4868 filers and those overseas officially have til October 15 (but that is not an extension to pay.) But the companies cut you off if you push it too far, typically less than a year. They won't help with 2017 taxes or 2015, which you can still file and get a refund. I had occasion to file 2 years late (the numbers were waiting on a Tax Court verdict on the previous year's filing). – Harper - Reinstate Monica Apr 9 '19 at 22:00
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    @Harper nit: overseas gets you automatic filing extension to June 15, but for more (up to Oct. 15) you must file 4868 just like domestic. (Exception: military in combat zone automatically gets filing and payment extension until that service ends, plus up to 2 years hospitalization incident to that service.) – dave_thompson_085 Apr 10 '19 at 18:34

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