Why Are Taxes Due After April 15 This Year?

April 12, 2016

Betsy Ross made the first U.S. flag, Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, and Tax Day is April 15. These American immutable truths are being thrown a curveball this year, because the day that Americans must timely file their federal income tax returns for 2015 is April 18, 2016, three days later than usual.

The reason is Emancipation Day, which celebrates Lincoln's freeing of 3,100 slaves in the District of Columbia on April 16, 1862, nine months before he signed the Emancipation Proclamation. DC began celebrating it a few years ago and as a legal holiday, gets precedence over the tax deadline. This year, since the holiday falls on a Saturday, it will be observed on Friday, April 15. That means Tax Day is Monday, April 18.

In Maine and Massachusetts, taxpayers get an extra day because of Patriots' Day, a holiday this year celebrated on April 18 to honor the Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. (Maine used to be part of Massachusetts so it celebrates the battles too.) The federal filing deadline for taxpayers in those states is Tuesday, April 19, although any estimated tax payments are still due on April 18. (This was all clarified by a recent IRS revenue ruling.) This is also impacts extension deadlines – taxpayers using a 6-month extension will have a deadline of October 17, 2016.

Tax Day wasn't always April 15th (or 18th). When the income tax first came into effect, the filing deadline was March 1 (starting in 1914 for the 1913 tax year), then moved to March 15 in 1919, then to April 15 in 1955.

More on this from the IRS.

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