If you find yourself without all of the information to file your tax return on time, or if you just haven’t got the time to fill out the forms, you can always file for an extension of time to file. This is an automatic extension of six months – to October 15 in most cases.
This is only an extension of the time to file your return, not an extension of the time to pay any tax due. You should send the tax due (your estimate of course) by April 15.
In an earlier article, we covered the fact that you should file your tax return on time, even if you can’t pay. This applies here as well, but in general you should pay if you’ve calculated that you owe.
Here are seven important things you need to know about filing an extension:
- File on time even if you can’t pay. If you completed your return but you are unable to pay the full amount of tax due, do not request an extension. File your return on time and pay as much as you can. To pay the balance, apply online for a payment plan using the Online Payment Agreement application at www.irs.gov or send Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request, with your return. If you are unable to make payments, call the IRS at 800-829-1040 to discuss your options.
- Extra time to file. An extension will give you extra time to get your paperwork to the IRS, but it does not extend the time you have to pay any tax due. You will owe interest on any amount not paid by the April 15 deadline, plus you may owe penalties.
- Form to file. Request an extension to file by submitting Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File US Individual Tax Return to the IRS. It must be postmarked by April 15. You also can make extension-related credit card payments, see Form 4868.
- E-file extension. You can e-file the extension request using tax preparation software with your own computer or by going to a tax preparer who has the software. You must e-file the request by midnight on April 15. The IRS will acknowledge receipt of the extension request if you e-file your extension.
- Traditional Free File and Free File Fillable Forms. You can use both Free File options to file an extension. Access the Free File page at www.irs.gov.
- Electronic funds withdrawal. If you ask for an extension via one of the electronic methods, you can also pay any expected balance due by authorizing an electronic funds withdrawal from a checking or savings account. You will need the appropriate bank routing and account numbers. For information about these and other methods of payment, visit the IRS website at www.irs.gov or call 800-TAX-1040 (800-829-1040).
- How to get forms. Form 4868 is available for download from the IRS website or you can pick up the form at your local IRS office.