What to do if you missed the US tax deadline

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Sam Adams
Written by
Samantha Adams
Head of Content

So, you missed the US tax deadline and still need to calculate your crypto taxes. Don’t panic; it happens to the best of us! Whether you’re a seasoned trader or just dipping your toes into crypto, in this blog, we’ll walk you through the steps to take if you find yourself in this situation, from understanding the tax deadlines to filing for an extension and navigating the complexities of amended returns.

How is cryptocurrency taxed in the United States?

In the US, crypto is subject to income tax and capital gains tax. Generally, when you dispose of cryptocurrency, it is likely a capital event whereas cryptocurrency you receive but haven’t bought, like as a mining reward, is reportable as ordinary income.

Find out more in our US crypto tax guide.

Understanding the tax deadlines

Infographic showing the US tax deadline April 15th and Extension deadline October 15th

First things first, let’s clarify the US tax deadlines you need to be aware of:

2024 tax filing deadline date

The federal tax return filing deadline in the US is typically April 15th. However, if that falls on a weekend or holiday, it may be extended. In 2024, the deadline was April 15th.

Tax extension deadline

If you need more time to file, you can request an extension. The extension deadline is usually October 15th. Remember, this extension applies only to filing your return, not to paying any taxes owed. You should estimate the amount owed and pay with Form 4868.

What happens if you miss the US tax deadline?

If you miss the tax deadline you could face fines, penalties or an audit from the IRS. Failure to file your taxes on time can result in anything from fines to imprisonment in severe cases. There are two penalties - a failure to file penalty, which is charged if you file a late return, and a failure to pay penalty, when you owe money to the IRS. You should file and pay your tax return as soon as possible to limit these penalties.

How much is the penalty for filing your tax return late?

The failure to file penalty and failure to pay penalty are separate but both can add up quickly and they do impact each other. The amount of each penalty depends on how late you are filing and how much you owe the IRS - the later and higher, the more you can expect to be penalised.

  • The failure to file penalty is 5% of the unpaid amount per month
  • The failure to pay penalty is 0.5% of the unpaid tax each month
  • Where both apply, there is a maximum penalty of 5% per month - split as 4.5% for failure to file and 0.5% for failure to pay.

These penalties will be charged until each penalty reaches 25% of the total tax owed - 5 months for failure to file and 45 months for failure to pay.

How can you minimize IRS penalties?

  1. File and pay your taxes on time! It’s the obvious answer, but it’s the simplest way to avoid penalties. You have from the end of the tax year to the 15th April to calculate and file your tax return but you can remove some of the pressure by staying on top of record keeping throughout the tax year. Try setting aside some admin time to gather all your paperwork together and use a crypto tax calculator like Recap to stay on top of your crypto transactions. Book in time with your CPA well ahead of tax season to get on top of filing early and possibly take advantage of lower hourly rate.
  2. File an extension. If you’re going to miss the deadline then file for an extension to give yourself an extra six months to get caught up. Just remember you can only do this before the deadline and you’ll also have to estimate what’s due and pay.
  3. File your taxes before paying. If you’re avoiding filing because you can’t afford to pay your taxes then you’re just adding to the problem. The late filing penalty is 5% whereas the late payment penalty is 0.5% so if you have your tax forms prepped then file asap to avoid the big penalty and start looking into ways to pay your taxes.
  4. Get professional help. Late filing and payment penalties accrue quickly, so although paying for a tax professional may seem expensive, it could be more cost effective than unpaid tax penalties.

How to file an IRS tax extension

If you realize you won’t be able to meet the original filing deadline, don’t panic. You can file for an extension by filling in and submitting Form 4868, giving you extra time to submit your return. Remember:

  • An IRS extension only applies to filing your tax return, not to paying any taxes owed.
  • You must file your extension before the original filing deadline of April 15 to avoid penalties.

What happens if you haven’t included crypto in past tax returns?

Whether you were actively trying to avoid taxes, forgot, or didn’t realize you needed to include cryptocurrency on your tax return, if you’ve neglected to include crypto on your tax return, then you’ll need to set things straight with the IRS. For most crypto investors, amending your past tax returns is the appropriate action, you could also file a voluntary disclosure.

How to submit an amended tax return

You can file an amended return using form 1040X for three years after the date that you originally filed. This does not increase your risk of an IRS audit!

  1. Assess your tax liability: Determine what you owe in crypto taxes. Crypto tax calculator tools like Recap can help make this process simpler and more straightforward.
  2. File an amended return: Using IRS Form 1040X to rectify any errors or omissions in your original filing. The form’s pretty easy to follow - but ensure you only include new or amended information.
  3. Submit your amended return: Once you’ve completed Form 1040X, submit it to the IRS with any additional attachments required. Be sure to make any additional payment if your return results in a higher tax liability.

File a voluntary disclosure

You can file a voluntary disclosure to declare information about your cryptocurrency activity to the IRS. Voluntary disclosures cover a six year period and help taxpayers comply and avoid criminal prosecution. They must be received before the IRS received information about or initiates examination into your non-compliance.

  1. Fill out Part I of Form 14457 to request preclearance, which determines your eligibility to the voluntary disclosure program.
  2. Submit Part II of the Voluntary Disclosure Application within 45 days. This is where you will actually disclose missing information.
  3. Cooperate with the IRS in establishing your accurate tax liability and make arrangements to pay the outstanding tax in full.

Tax evasion vs tax avoidance

It’s essential to understand the difference between tax evasion and avoidance to ensure compliance with tax laws. While the former involves deliberately evading taxes, the latter focuses on legally minimizing tax liability.

The IRS define two types of tax evasion:

  1. Evasion of assessment: This occurs when a taxpayer willfully omits or underreports income, overstates deductions, or fails to report income altogether.
  2. Evasion of payment: After a tax assessment has been made, evasion of payment involves concealing assets or funds that could be used to settle tax liability.

Can you avoid paying crypto taxes?

how to reduce crypto tax

While it may be tempting to try to avoid crypto taxes, it’s essential to understand that the IRS is actively enforcing tax compliance in the crypto space. Although you can’t avoid paying crypto taxes, there are strategies you can put in place when participating in crypto to help reduce your tax liability.

  1. HODL your crypto long term - the tax rate for short term capital gains is much higher so consider investing in assets for over a year.
  2. Strategise crypto activity for lower income years - time your activity to take advantage of lower tax rates.
  3. Use losses to offset gains in your investment portfolio.
  4. Invest in crypto through a retirement account to defer or avoid taxes.
  5. Gift crypto to transfer assets tax efficiently.

For more tax saving strategies check out our article “Can you avoid paying tax on crypto”.

Recap is here to help

Missing the US tax deadline because of your crypto activity can be stressful, but it’s essential to stay calm and take the necessary steps to rectify the situation. By understanding the deadlines, consequences, and options available to you, you can address late tax filing with confidence.

And remember, Recap is here to help simplify the complexities of crypto taxes, making it easier for you to stay compliant.

US late filing FAQs

What happens if I forget to include crypto in my tax return?

If you haven’t included crypto in past tax returns then you could be at risk of penalties or an IRS audit. You should submit an amended tax return.

Do I need to report crypto losses?

Reporting crypto losses is beneficial as they can be used to offset your capital gains. Take a look at this article for tax saving opportunities for crypto.

Do you have to report crypto if you don’t sell?

Buying and holding crypto are not taxable events so you do not need to report any capital gains however you should still answer the crypto question on the tax form. You may also need to check if your crypto activity is taxable - for example if you earned the crypto through mining rewards you would need to pay ordinary income tax, or if you traded crypto to crypto it would be subject to capital gains tax. Take a look at our US crypto tax guide for more detailed information.

Do crypto exchanges report to the IRS?

Yes, some crypto exchanges like Coinbase, Kraken and Gemini report to the IRS. If you’ve ever received Form 1099 from one of your exchanges then you can assume the IRS has too. The IRS has also been able to identify anonymous wallets by partnering with blockchain analysis firms like Chainalysis.

Do you need to file crypto under $600?

Yes, you need to be truthful about your crypto activity no matter what the value of your crypto assets are. Check our US crypto tax guide to find out how and when you need to file crypto taxes.

Do the IRS know about my crypto?

Yes, it’s likely that the IRS knows about your crypto. They may have access to your information from centralized exchanges or be able to trace blockchain activity back to you.

Can you be audited by the IRS about your crypto?

Yes, if the IRS believes you are withholding information or incorrectly reporting your cryptocurrency income and capital gains on your tax return you might be selected for an audit. If you believe you may be at risk of a cryptocurrency tax audit, then we recommend getting help from a tax professional and filing an amended tax return or voluntary disclosure.

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