You have an extra month to file your 2020 federal tax returns, as the Internal Revenue Service has extended the deadline to May 17.

Individuals can also postpone making 2020 tax year payments until May 17, without penalties and interest. Penalties and interest will start to accrue, however, on any remaining tax balances as of May 17.

Information was not immediately available on whether the deadline will be affected for overseas U.S. citizens, to include military members and their families. That deadline is currently June 15. An IRS spokeswoman said additional guidance will be coming soon.

“This continues to be a tough time for many people, and the IRS wants to continue to do everything possible to help taxpayers navigate the unusual circumstances related to the pandemic, while also working on important tax administration responsibilities,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig, in an announcement of the extension.

Although the deadline has been extended, the IRS urges individuals to file as early as possible, especially if you’re expecting a refund. Filing electronically with direct deposit is the quickest way to get refunds — most tax refunds are issued within 21 days, according to the IRS.

This extension applies only to federal income taxes; states make their own rules. Taxpayers need to file state income tax returns in 42 states plus the District of Columbia; and those deadlines vary. The IRS urges taxpayers to check with their state tax agencies for deadlines and details.

The May 17 extension doesn’t affect tax deadline extensions for residents of Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, who have until June 15, due to relief related to the winter storm damage announced earlier by the IRS.

Some members of the military, such as those who serve in a combat zone, can postpone some tax deadlines; there are a number of other provisions that address the special tax situations and benefits of the military. For more information, visit the IRS information page for military.

Your best bet is to take advantage of free, professional, military-specific tax preparation help that’s offered by DoD and the services. There are fewer tax centers operated by legal assistance offices on bases this year because of COVID, but you should check to see if this free tax preparation service is available at an installation near you, at https://www.militaryonesource.mil/vita-location-lookup/.

These IRS-trained volunteers have training in military-specific tax topics and situations, such as extensions and deadlines while serving in a combat zone, and how new tax laws may affect the military community. The service is open to active-duty members and their families for free, and to retirees when space is available.

The Defense Department also offers free tax preparation and filing software through MilitaryOneSource.mil, and tax consultants trained in military tax issues who are available for free, 24/7.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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