You don’t have to file on April 15 – this year: Kathy Pickering, executive director of the Tax Institute at H&R Block, reminds filers that they don’t have to mail in their federal income tax returns until April 18, three days later than usual.

1. You don’t have to file on April 15 – this year: Kathy Pickering, executive director of the Tax Institute at H&R Block, reminds filers that they don’t have to mail in their federal income tax returns until April 18, three days later than usual.


The reason for this is a fairly arcane one: Emancipation Day. It’s a legal holiday in Washington, D.C., commemorating Abraham Lincoln’s freeing of slaves in the District of Columbia. It also triggers an IRS exception: The government agency doesn’t require taxpayers to file their income taxes on legal holidays. Because Emancipation Day falls on a Friday, and because the IRS also doesn’t require taxpayers to file returns on weekends, the official filing deadline falls all the way back to Monday, April 18.


2. Don’t file too early, if you itemize: If you itemize your deductions on your federal tax returns, the IRS is asking you for a favor: They don’t want you to file your taxes too early in the year.


Jeff Staley, managing partner of Freedom Tax Relief in San Mateo, Calif., says the IRS is still reprogramming its systems to handle new tax breaks included in the 2010 Tax Relief Act that President Obama signed into law late last year.


According to Staley, if you itemize your deductions, the IRS is requesting that you not file your federal taxes until at least the middle of February.


3. If you’re out of work, you still must file: Pickering said that even those taxpayers who were unemployed for all of 2010 must file tax returns. Even less appealing for these filers: This year, the federal government is taxing all unemployment benefits. This is a change from 2009, when the first $2,400 of unemployment benefits was tax-free, Pickering said.