Here's What Happens If You Do Your Taxes At The Last Minute

by Eliza Castile

This year, the last day to file taxes is Apr. 18. For some people (read: adults who have this life thing figured out), the date will pass by unnoticed because they filed months ago. For others (read: my fellow irresponsible garbage humans), Tuesday will be spent tearing your house apart for tax documents and worrying about what happens if you file taxes at the last minute. If you count yourself among the latter, welcome to the club — although it's not a very exclusive one. In 2015, IRS data indicated that about one in seven Americans waited until the week before the deadline to file, so you're definitely not alone.

So what happens if you procrastinate on filing? It depends on your situation. If you have all your documents together and are able to get your taxes in before Apr. 18, it's considered on time. Obviously, if you'd filed earlier, you'd get your refund faster, but you'll still receive one. (As a heads up, it usually takes three weeks or less to receive your refund through direct deposit; you can check the status of your refund on the IRS website.) Any potential problems stem from being unable to actually file on time.

If you wait till the last minute, you might realize you're missing important documents, so your taxes would be incomplete. Unfortunately, waiting till Apr. 17 to file means you might not have time to locate whatever's missing.

Before you panic, though, there's good news. The IRS automatically grants six-month extensions to people who ask for them before the normal deadline. You still have to file eventually, but with an extension, this year's deadline is moved to Oct. 17. It's ridiculously easy — all you have to do is fill out form 4868 online (or over the phone) and voila! You can procrastinate again until Oct. 16. According to Five Thirty Eight, about 13 million people requested extensions in 2015, so you're in good company.

By the way, I'm sure the IRS doesn't exactly approve of procrastination, but they're not going to send you to jail for waiting until the last second. According to The Conversation, the odds of going to prison for a tax mistake are smaller than those of being struck by lightning.

So there you have it! If you manage to get your taxes filed by Apr. 18, all that happens is (hopefully) getting a tax refund. If you don't have your papers together in time, file for an extension and hunt down your documents before October 17. Just don't procrastinate again this fall — this kind of stress is bad enough once a year.