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What's the penalty if you miss the tax filing deadline?

This year’s April 18 tax deadline is here. You may wonder what the penalty is if you miss the deadline to file your federal tax return.

First the good news: If the government owes you money, there is no penalty for filing late. But if you don't file your tax return within three years, you'll lose your refund and the money will go to the U.S. treasury.

If you owe the government money, though, and you don't file your tax return or file for an extension by the deadline, you'll face a late filing penalty.

It's five percent of the tax you owe for every month the payment's late, up to 25 percent of what you owe. In addition, if you file your tax return more than 60 days late, the minimum penalty is $135.

Also, if you don't pay the tax you owe by the deadline, whether or not you file for an extension, the IRS will charge a late payment penalty. It's charged at a rate of one-half of one percent of the tax bill for every month it's late.

Finally, the IRS can charge interest on the amount of money you owe the federal government. For individual taxpayers, that interest rate is the federal short-term rate plus three percentage points. That puts the current interest rate at about four percent.

But the IRS determines tax penalties on a case-by-case basis.

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