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Federal holiday effects on federal taxes

Columbus DayDo you have Columbus Day off?

Most office workers do. If you're in the retail business, however, you're probably at work, most likely dealing with customers who are taking advantage of Columbus Day sale bargains.

Yep, the running joke is that even the most reverential of federal holidays have in our consumer-oriented society become a way to market products.

Although some argue that Columbus Day isn't really a national holiday, Uncle Sam counts it among the 10 federal holidays he recognizes.

That's good enough to make 10 this week's By the Numbers figure.

But the numeral also gets honored because federal holidays sometimes affect our taxes.

10 federal holidays: First the official holidays.

For 2014, the National Archives lists the following days that federal and many state and local government workers, as well as some private sector employees, don't have to come into their offices:

Date Holiday
Wednesday, January 1 New Year's Day
Monday, January 20 Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Monday, February 17 Washington's Birthday*
Monday, May 26 Memorial Day
Friday, July 4 Independence Day
Monday, September 1 Labor Day
Monday, October 13 Columbus Day
Tuesday, November 11 Veterans Day
Thursday, November 27 Thanksgiving Day
Thursday, December 25 Christmas Day

Floating and informal holidays: You caught the * on Washington's Birthday, right? Technically, this holiday is for George, the father of our country, only.

But the third Monday in February holiday often is referred to, incorrectly, as Presidents' Day (guilty!) as a way to unofficially honor Abraham Lincoln, too, whose birthday also falls in February.

Washington's Birthday, like Columbus Day, has no fixed date. Rather they are among the floating holidays that create three-day weekends thanks to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968.

Columbus Day this year is just before the Oct. 15 extended final tax filing deadline. If you're still working on your 2013 Form 1040 and have today off, it's a timely break during which you can work on your taxes.

But there's little chance that this holiday will one day coincide with the October tax filing day. I checked Calendar.com through 2044 and it comes close -- Oct. 14 -- several times, but the way the days run, the second Monday of October doesn't make it to Oct. 15 … at least not in the next 30 years.

Other tax deadlines, however, do sometimes fall on federal holidays. When that happens, or when tax due dates fall on weekends, then we -- business and individual taxpayers -- get until the next business day to fulfill our tax responsibilities.

Added federal holiday some years: Another holiday, Emancipation Day in April, isn't widely celebrated nationwide, but it sometimes affects federal tax filings.

Emancipation Day is on the official Washington, D.C., calendar and under a federal statute enacted decades ago, holidays observed in the District of Columbia are observed by federal agencies.

That was the case in 2007 and 2011, when the April filing deadline was the same as Emancipation Day. Since the IRS headquarters in D.C. was closed those days, all of us in the United States got an extra day to file our federal tax returns.

State tax time shifting, too: Some state holidays also could affect tax filings.

The biggie here is Patriots' Day, a legal holiday in Maine and Massachusetts that commemorates the first battles of the Revolutionary War at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775.

Patriots Day is the third Monday in April. On the years when that holiday coincides with Maine's and Massachusetts' tax deadline day, which is the same as Uncle Sam's, residents get until the next business day to get their state filings done.

So keep an eye on your taxes and your calendars. Make sure you know the due dates and get your tax tasks completed on time. If you're late, you could end up owing penalties and interest.

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