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7 ways to pay your tax bill due July 15

Pay your tax now window sign
Tax returns AND any tax owed are due next week. Wednesday, July 15, to be exact. (Painted window in Harlingen, Texas, 1939, by Lee Russell; New York Public Library image via Unsplash)

We're into the home stretch of the coronavirus extended 2020 tax season. That means that millions of taxpayers (or their tax preparers) are working on 2019 returns or extensions to finish up those 1040s.

While you can send the Internal Revenue Service Form 4868 to get until Oct. 15 to submit your actual return, you still must pay any tax you owe by July 15. If you don't, you'll only end up owning more due to penalties.

Even if you can't pay your full tax bill now, try to pay something. The less you owe, the smaller the penalty and interest charges.

Here are seven ways the IRS will accept what you owe.

1. Credit or Debit Card: Uncle Sam has long been a big fan of e-transactions, especially those that involve him getting our money. That's why most of your tax payment options are electronic. Paying by plastic is the granddaddy of tax electronic payments.

For all you mobile aficionados, digital wallet payments are accepted here, too. You'll also want to check out the tax agency's app IRS2Go and its device-friendly payment options.

These payments are made through IRS-authorized processors. This filing season, that's PayUSAtax, Pay1040 and Official Payments.

The IRS and its processor partners accept e-payments via Master Card, Visa, Discover, American Express, STAR, Pulse, NYCE, Accel, Visa Checkout, MasterPass, Amex Express Checkout, PayPal. Note, however, that every payment option just listed isn't accepted by all. So double check before selecting a payment method and/or processing company.

One thing that is the same is that all three credit payment processors charge a fee. And no, the IRS doesn't get any portion of it. The minimum transaction fees are:

Credit card tax payment processing fees

You can find more in the payment processor fee comparison section of the IRS credit/debit card tax payment webpage.

A pro of credit card payments is that if you earn points for purchase, your tax payments counts here.

A con of credit card payments is that if you have a big tax bill, the fees can add up. And if you don't pay your card balance quickly, interest charges there will add up, too.

2. Direct Pay from Bank Account: Many of us regularly pay our day-to-day bills online. This is a similar process. You set up a Direct Pay account with the IRS, which will verify your identity with information from your past six years of tax returns. Once that's done, you send your payments from your bank account to the IRS. There's no cost and you can schedule payments up to 30 days in advance. When you send your due taxes vial Direct Pay, you'll get immediate confirmation. You also can opt-in to email notifications about each Direct Pay transaction. The IRS has a special online Direct Pay FAQ about the process.

3. Electronic Funds Withdrawal (EFW): This method is integrated into the e-filing system. It's available when you use commercial software, a paid preparer or Free File. Here, when you electronically send your federal tax return you also submit an EFW payment request. The Treasury will then take the amount from your return directly from the account you've designated. Like Direct Pay, EFW is free.

4. Same-Day Wire: Every time I see this option, I think about old-timey bank transactions. Cue the Monopoly Man or, if you're like me, scenes from "It's a Wonderful Life," especially those with the evil Mr. Potter. 

But apparently some folks still like to wire money. And the IRS will accept a same-day wire from a financial institution as a tax payment.

If you want to put on your top hat and stick grandpa's pocket watch in your vest pocket, then go ahead. But also contact your financial institution about the availability, cost and cut-off times for paying this way. The IRS also has a Same Day Payment Worksheet you can use here.

5. Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS): This method, usually referred to by its acronym and pronounced Eff-Tips, is what I've used for years to pay various taxes.

If you're interested in using EFTPS for the first time, I'm sorry to tell you that won't be possible. You have to set up an account. While that process has been streamlined over the years, it still takes some time. Since we're less than a week from the 2020 deadline, you won't be able to meet it with EFTPS.

But give it a look for future payments. To set up an account and get more information, visit the EFTPS.gov website or call toll-free (800) 555-3453.

It's available to both individual and business taxpayers and there's no cost to use it. But like with other e-payment options, you do need to ensure you have money in the paying account, especially if you scheduled it earlier.

The IRS wants that, too. That's why EFTPS will send you a reminder, like the friendly one below that showed up in my email box today.

EFTPS reminder to have money in my account

6. Check or Money Order: If you're more comfortable with traditional payments, the IRS and Treasury Department still will take them.

You can pay your taxes by sending Uncle Sam a check or money order. One advantage of this old-school tax payment choice is that your tax payment doesn't have to at the IRS office on the tax due date. You just have to make sure it's sent by the due date.

That means you need to have the envelope to the IRS postmarked by the deadline. The tax collector accepts that as proof you made a timely tax payment. Depending on when the check is cashed, you get a few more days of the money in your bank account.

Check to irs

If you do snail mail your tax bill payment as a check or money order, make it out to the "United States Treasury," not the IRS, despite that tongue-in-cheek check picture above.

Also, to help ensure your payment is promptly and properly credited, enclose a Form 1040-V payment voucher. And print on the front of the check or money order "2019 Form 1040," as well as your Social Security number, along with your name, address and daytime phone number if that info isn't already on your check.

7. Pay with Cash: If cash is still king for you, the federal tax collector will take that money, too, at participating retail outlets. In fact, there are even more such cash tax payment options this year, as Ace Cash Express and Casey's General Stores have joined 7-Eleven stores across the United States in converting your cash to a federal tax payment.

This method actually is a hybrid of old school currency and electronic payment. As my earlier post on cash tax payments notes, you need to set up the system beforehand. This process involves multiple steps, so if you want to pay this way, you need to get started ahead of the tax deadline — like NOW! — so you won't end up paying late and facing interest and penalty charges.

And even though you pay with cash, it's transmitted electronically at the retail locations. That means there's a $3.99 transaction fee.

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