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Normally I file and pay taxes at the same time.

Is it acceptable to file first, perhaps months before the payment deadline?

I ask because I have a large tax liability, and would prefer to put it off as long as possible.

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    You can't file before the forms become available late in January. So IDK about "months", and if you want to wait a couple of months to pay why bother filing? Best case you gain nothing. Worst case you get a corrected statement from someone and then have to file an amended return. Why bother? Also if you have a "large" liability, you probably are supposed to pay quarterly, and if your Q4 liability alone is so large that you're asking this question, I circle back to my question: are you really sure your documents are in order in January?
    – jay613
    Apr 11, 2023 at 13:24
  • @jay613 I filed in early February, and the IRS will take the money on 5/17. That's "months".
    – RonJohn
    Apr 11, 2023 at 17:39

3 Answers 3

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Of course you're already right up against the deadline for this year, so there is no "months before" available right now. You could file a request for extension, but you have to submit an initial estimated payment with that... and if it turns out you owe more than you sent, they'll ding you for late payment on the remainder due. So presumably you're asking about next year.

When submitting an electronic return, I know it's possible to send the forms and then mail them a check separately... so that implies that your general scenario is possible. But how early do you expect to actually have all the information available to let you file? I didn't get the last of my numbers until the start of March; I did immediately file then but that would have left me with a maximum possible delay of about six weeks. Whether that's enough to be worth the effort will depend on your own specific investments and cash flows and whatever.

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    "but you have to submit an initial estimated return (and payment) with that." Not sure what you mean by "initial estimated return". Submitting an extension payment is sufficient to request an extension, without anything else needing to be filed. Perhaps the numerical amount you pay can be considered an "estimate", but it is hardly a "return". If you are not making an extension payment, you can submit a form to request an extension, and all you have to provide is a single number for your estimated tax liability.
    – user102008
    Apr 11, 2023 at 23:16
  • Been while since I did it' you're probably right.
    – keshlam
    Apr 11, 2023 at 23:34
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Sure, you can file and pay at different times.

However, if you don't meet the safe harbor for withholding/estimated payments (100% of the previous year's tax/110% if AGI >$150k, or 90% of the current year's tax, whichever is lower), you may face penalties for under-withholding throughout the year.

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Yes, filing your tax return and paying the taxes due can be done at different times. In fact, ideally all the taxes you owe for a year are paid in (either my payroll withholding or by estimated payments) by January 15th of the following year. Ideally, your tax return is basically informational only, and any payment due or refund due is very small - less than $500.

As others have mentioned, the due date for the taxes you owe is not really the tax filing date. It's earlier- during the year itself.

You don't explain why you owe a large amount, but whatever the reason, you would ideally pay in the related taxes as it happened or at the next quarterly estimated payment date.

The penalty for underpaid/late paid taxes will take that into account- it will go from when the tax liability was triggered, not from the tax filing due date. Just so you're prepared.

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  • "ideally all the taxes you owe for a year are paid in (either my payroll withholding or by estimated payments) by January 15th of the following year" You only need to pay the safe harbor level during the year or by estimated tax deadlines. The amount between the safe harbor level and your total tax liability is only due at the tax filing deadline. Also, if your withholding does not reach the safe harbor level, paying estimated taxes by January 15 is not sufficient to avoid a penalty -- a sufficient amount needs to have been paid in each quarter.
    – user102008
    Apr 11, 2023 at 23:11
  • "The penalty for underpaid/late paid taxes will take that into account- it will go from when the tax liability was triggered, not from the tax filing due date." Any underpayment penalties will go from the quarterly estimated tax deadline of the quarter when it needs to have been paid.
    – user102008
    Apr 11, 2023 at 23:12

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