For most taxpayers in the United States, “Tax Day,” the deadline for filing income tax returns for calendar-year filers, is on April 15. It’s a day that, upon reaching adulthood, every working American observes closely as a holiday or a tragic anniversary (September 11 or December 7, for instance). But in a post-Fordist America, where not everyone earns a living from a single full-time job, the deadline is six months later.
For filers who earn all of their income from a single full-time job, filing taxes is pretty simple. It gets a little more complicated if you own a house or have a lot of medical expenses, but for most of these people, you rush to file your taxes because you’ll receive a refund. The sooner you receive your money, the sooner you can buy that new TV or start on that addition to the house. In such cases, April 15 is the due date not the do date for filing an income tax return.
But not everyone has a single source of income. For instance, I cobble together a living from various teaching jobs at multiple colleges. Each one issues a Form W-2. In addition, I occasionally do other work, such as help a small company set up a secure file sharing system or edit videos for an art gallery. Each of those gigs yields a Form 1099-MISC. Also, in the last few years, I’ve offered my improving screen printing skills to a few places in need of custom-printed t-shirts. Each of those also results in another 1099.
All of the sources of income make for a complex tax return. Freelancers with multiple clients are no strangers to having a pile of tax forms showing income. In order to minimize one’s tax burden, it’s smart to record and to report business expenses as much as possible. This takes a lot of time, and for those of us who are overly meticulous or are terminal procrastinators, we file a request for a six-month extension.
Consequently, “Tax Day” for post-Fordist workers is really October 15. An extension to file your taxes is not an extension to pay your taxes. You still have to pay any amount due before April 15. But getting an additional six months to figure out what you actually owe is sometimes necessary. Write a big check in April, file later, and get a tiny refund at the end of it all.
I’m ashamed to admit that I did that this year. I didn’t file my 2014 tax returns until yesterday, October 15, 2015, two and a half months before the start of 2016. And like a lot of people I know with multiple sources of income, I know that I wasn’t alone.