Dogecoin crashes Out-of-control Chinese rocket Best Buy 3-day sale Bill Gates and Melinda Gates divorce Last-minute Mother's Day gifts Stimulus check updates

The deadline to file taxes is May 17. What you should know before Tax Day

We had extra time to file our tax returns, but the IRS deadline is almost here. Here's why your tax refund, stimulus check money and expanded child tax credit may be at stake if you don't get your taxes done in time.

- 03:57

Still putting off that 2020 tax return? You have just over a week to file. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Though Tax Day is usually April 15, this year the deadline was pushed to May 17. That date is approaching quickly, and you may be considering filing for a tax extension if you can't make it. One thing to consider is that stimulus check payments and adjusted gross income are connected. For example, you could be eligible for a "plus-up" payment for your third stimulus check and get more money back with your tax refund

We'll tell you why filing your tax return now is important and how moving it back could impact you. If you haven't filed yet or don't plan to, you could be missing out on extra money in your pocket. Your tax information is also crucial in determining how much you're owed with the new child tax credit -- to see how much you qualify for, use CNET's child tax calculator. It's also easier to file now than to request an extension in order to retroactively claim child tax credit money or missing stimulus check money by having to file a payment trace

If you did file your 2020 tax return but you're still waiting on your refund, check out how to track it here. You should also 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 has been updated.

What do my 2020 taxes have to do with 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.

Now playing: Watch this: Stimulus plus-up payments: What you need to know

Why does the May 17 tax deadline affect my stimulus check payments?

The IRS uses information on your 2020 tax return, if it has it, when it determines 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.

Now playing: Watch this: Your tax questions answered in 3 minutes

What 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.

Does the May 17 deadline matter 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 stimulus payment and child tax credit are tied to your taxes. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Is my state's tax deadline the same as the federal 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 if I can't file my return before the May 17 due date?

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.