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April 15 Tax Return Postmark Deadline? Not This Year

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March 23, 2016
Pinning dates on a shifting calendar: Why tax deadlines are a little different this year

Some things seem like they were just meant to go together: peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese, peas and carrots. Oil and water—we all know they don’t mix. Turns out tax deadlines and holidays don’t pair well together, either.

While the IRS will have you believing that nothing takes precedence over timely tax filings, national holidays are the exception—and always rule. Here are some effects that holidays have on 2015 tax-related deadlines.

Presidents’ Day (February 15): In the article Brokerage Account 1099 Deadline, we discussed why Form 1099s are no longer required to be sent by January 31, and now have February 15 deadlines. However, since this date fell on a national holiday this year, the next business day—a Tuesday—was used. Yes, we’re well past Presidents’ Day, but this will happen again—in 2021, after the next leap year in 2020.

What is Presidents’ Day? The national holiday was expanded nationwide in the late 1870s to celebrate the life and times of President George Washington. It originally fell on Washington’s birthday, February 22. In 1971, the date was officially changed to the third Monday in February as part of the “Monday Holiday Law,” although the holiday now will never actually fall on Washington’s birthday. Interestingly, it’s still officially referred to as Washington’s Birthday on the federal dockets. Banks, markets, and the post office are all closed for the day.

Emancipation Day (April 16): As most of us tax filers are well aware, we must have tax returns postmarked by April 15—and there are generally long lines around post offices until midnight to attest to that. But thanks to Emancipation Day, that deadline is extended this year. Emancipation Day is an official public holiday celebrated in Washington, D.C., on April 16—meaning that all federal offices are closed. When it falls on a Saturday, as it does this year, the parade festivities are moved to Friday. That gives taxpayers across the nation three extra days, until Monday, April 18, to get their tax returns postmarked.  

What is Emancipation Day? It marks the anniversary of the day in 1862 when President Abraham Lincoln inked the Compensated Emancipation Act, which freed more than 3,000 slaves in the District of Columbia. As the official archives tell us, slavery was not formally abolished across the U.S. until after the Civil War, which was fought from 1861 to 1865. It was the 13th Amendment, ratified by 30 of the then-36 states, that put an end to legal slavery in 1865.

Patriots’ Day (April 18): This is an official state holiday for Massachusetts and Maine, and all state, county, and municipal offices are closed. It’s traditionally celebrated on the third Monday of April, which, as noted above, happens to be the same Monday when taxpayers everywhere else will have to have their returns postmarked. But residents of Massachusetts or Maine get an extra day—until Tuesday, April 19—to post their returns.

What is Patriots’ Day? No, this is not a day of homage to the New England football team, but to a far more legendary commemoration in that region: the anniversary of the first conflicts in the American Revolutionary War. Specifically, it memorializes the battles of Lexington and Concord, near Boston, which first raged on April 19, 1775. There are reenactments throughout the area, including Paul Revere’s midnight run, and it’s also when the Boston Marathon is traditionally run.

Wisconsin and Tennessee also observe the date, but not as a public holiday. Note, too, that Patriots’ Day is not to be confused with Patriot Day, which falls on September 11 as a national day of mourning for the 2,977 people who perished at the hands of terrorists on 9/11/2001.

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