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Legal holidays and how they can affect federal taxes

Monday holiday keep calm

Welcome to another Monday holiday. Today is Columbus Day.

And yes, it's still officially called that by the federal government. The White House issued a proclamation last week lauding namesake Christopher Columbus.

But the Biden Administration also recognizes that on the second Monday in October, many in the United States celebrate the country's original inhabitants. So on the same day as the Columbus statement, the president issued a second proclamation citing Oct. 10 as Indigenous Peoples' Day.

The dual and dueling declarations of what is and should be celebrated on this October holiday is only a part of its complexities.

Like most other federal holidays, Columbus Day has seen its meaning co-opted by the private sector. More of us attend retailers' sales (need a new mattress?) on this October holiday than go to parades celebrating the 15th century Italian explorer.

It's also one of those holidays without a firm calendar date. Instead, Columbus Day, like many other holidays, is subject to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. This means the actual date that used to signify a federal holiday is no longer relevant.

The shift to Monday holidays does have some advantages. It makes it easier to remember these days. It also gives many folks a long weekend.

The shifting of holidays to a week day, however, sometimes means that they collide with federal tax deadlines.

IRS deadline timing: The Internal Revenue Service says it considers our tax returns, payments and other required tax actions as being completed on time if they are sent or completed by the tax event's deadline.

Meet this timely filing requirements and you'll avoid penalty and interest charges for being late.

For paper filings, this generally means a U.S. Postal Service postmark on the envelope on the deadline day. For e-filings, it means transmitting on the due date.

Note that for e-filing, the timing when the IRS says you can hit "send" varies depending on the type of transaction, so if you're pushing your electronic compliance to the very last minute, be sure to check with your tax pro or the IRS.

These deadlines, however, get shifted when they fall on a Saturday, Sunday, or a legal holiday. In these cases, the due date is the next business day.

Legal vs. federal holidays: Also take note of the term legal holiday. Most of us tend to think that the descriptors legal and federal are interchangeable synonyms for these select days.

Not quite.

A federal holiday is one recognized by Uncle Sam by the closure of his offices. The easiest way to determine whether a holiday is considered a federal one is to see whether the U.S. Postal Service delivers mail. While our post offices are an independent operation of the executive branch, its employees follow federal rules, including holiday observances.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management also keeps track of federal holidays for all government workers. For 2022, they are observed on:

  • New Year's Day (Friday, December 31, 2021)
  • Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Monday, January 17)
  • George Washington's Birthday (Monday, February 21; and yep, that's the holiday's official name, not Presidents, with or without an apostrophe, Day)
  • District of Columbia Emancipation Day (Saturday, April 16)
  • Memorial Day (Monday, May 30)
  • Juneteenth (Monday, June 20)
  • Independence Day (Monday, July 4)
  • Labor Day (Monday, September 5)
  • Columbus Day (Monday, October 10)
  • Veterans Day (Friday, November 11; not subject to the Monday holiday law)
  • Thanksgiving Day (Thursday, November 24)
  • Christmas Day (Monday, December 26)

For future planning purposes, here are when these federal holidays will be acknowledged in 2023:

  • New Year's Day (Monday, January 2)
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (Monday, January 16)
  • Washington's Birthday (Monday, February 20)
  • District of Columbia Emancipation Day (Sunday, April 16)
  • Memorial Day (Monday, May 29)
  • Juneteenth (Monday, June 19)
  • Independence Day (Tuesday, July 4)
  • Labor Day (Monday, September 4)
  • Columbus Day (Monday, October 9)
  • Veterans Day (Saturday, November 11; although not subject to the Monday holiday law, federal offices will recognize this day for worker pay and leave purposes in 2023 on Friday, November 10)
  • Thanksgiving Day (Thursday, November 23)
  • Christmas Day (Monday, December 25)

In most cases, state and local government offices also are shuttered on federal holidays.

Tax calendar effects: These legal holidays also sometimes affect federal tax filings.

The impending October extended tax return filing deadline — it's on Tuesday, Oct. 17 this year — obviously isn't affected by Columbus Day, other than giving some folks who have the day off more time to finish their Form 1040.

But other tax due dates do sometimes fall on holidays. When that happens, your federal tax obligation is moved to the next business day. The same deadline shift happens when the IRS due date falls on a weekend.

So pay attention to the calendar. Enjoy your days off for federal holidays, but make sure you don't miss a tax deadline that's moved because of a holiday.

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