How to File for a Tax Extension

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How to File for a Tax Extension

Tax deadlines have a habit of sneaking up on you, so you may need to file for a tax extension at some time in your life.

If you need more time to prepare your return—whether because of school, travel, or a family emergency, or just because you are disorganized—you may seek a six-month filing extension by completing the appropriate form to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).There is, of course, a deadline for that as well, but the good news is that gaining an extension is simpler than you may expect. From dates and paperwork to specific restrictions, here’s everything you need to know.

Key Takeaways

  • A tax extension may be filed online or by submitting a paper form.
  • Tax extensions are usually for six months.
  • When you submit your tax return, any overpayment will be repaid.
  • A filing deadline extension does not extend your payment deadline.
  • Obtaining an extension will give you until October 15, 2022, rather than April 18, 2022, to submit your 2021 tax returns.

Filing for a Tax Extension: Form 4868

You must complete Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, if you need an extension of time to file your individual income tax return.

The deadline for requesting an extension coincides with the day your tax return is generally due. In most years, that’s April 15, or the next weekday if April 15 occurs on a weekend.

For victims of large hurricanes and other natural disasters, the IRS often delays tax filing deadlines. Consult the IRS disaster relief notifications to see whether you are eligible for one of these extensions.

Requesting an extension is free and quick, and it may be done online or on paper. In either case, you must provide identification information (your name, address, Social Security number, and your spouse’s Social Security number) as well as your individual income tax information (estimate of total tax liability for the year in question, total payments made, balance due, and amount paid).

There are also checkboxes to indicate whether you are a U.S. citizen or resident who is currently outside the country, or if you file Form 1040-NR, which is an income tax return that nonresident aliens must file if they conducted business in the United States during the tax year or earned income from U.S. sources.

Form 4868, like all other tax forms, is accessible on the IRS website. Form 4868 and other commonly downloaded forms and publications may be found under the Forms, Instructions, and Publications area.

File a tax extension request online

IRS e-file is the IRS electronic filing tool that enables you to electronically submit tax documents, including Form 4868, to IRS computers. You may get an automatic extension of time to file your tax return by submitting Form 4868 electronically through IRS e-file on your own, using free or commercial tax software, or with the assistance of a tax expert who utilizes e-file.

In any case, you will get an email acknowledging receipt, which you should retain with your tax documents.

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If your adjusted gross income (AGI) is less than a certain amount—$73,000 in 2021—you may use name-brand software for free from Free File, a free service that offers taxpayers federal tax preparation and e-file alternatives.

If your income exceeds the limit, you may utilize the IRS Fillable Forms facility. Some tax software firms also provide free filing under specific situations.

File a tax extension request by mail

Form 4868 may also be submitted on paper. You may download the form from the IRS website or obtain a print form by completing an order form on the IRS website. You may also get a form by calling the IRS at 800-829-3676. Copies may also be available at your local library or post office.

Notably, if you are a fiscal year (rather than calendar year) taxpayer, you may only submit Form 4868 on paper.

If you know you’ll need an extension ahead of time, don’t wait until the last minute to complete Form 4868. The sooner you submit it, the more time you’ll have to correct any possible issues before the deadline passes and the extension door shuts.

More Time to File, Not More Time to Pay (Usually)

Remember that the Form 4868 extension only allows you more time to file, not more time to pay. Even if the IRS granted you an extension to file later, you must still pay your taxes by the original due date for that year.

If you believe you will owe taxes when you submit your return, estimate how much you will owe and remove any taxes you have already paid (for example, through tax withholding on your paycheck).If your estimate is too high and you wind up overpaying, you will get a refund when you submit your return. You’ll also avoid possible fines and interest accrual, which might occur if you underpay your taxes.

You must pay the estimated income tax owed when you submit Form 4868. It’s often preferable to overestimate since you’ll receive a refund regardless, but underestimating increases the danger of paying interest on the money owing.

You may pay a portion or all of your anticipated income tax online with a debit or credit card, or by electronic money transfer via Direct Pay. Even if you file online, you may send a check or money order to make your tax payment. Make your check or money order payable to the US Treasury and include a completed Form 4868 as a voucher.

If you filed Form 4868 online and are not sending a payment, you do not need to file a hardcopy Form 4868.

State Tax Extensions

Each state has its own tax extension requirements. Although some jurisdictions automatically provide six-month extensions to all taxpayers (Alabama, California, and Wisconsin, for example), others require you to fill out a form on or before the original due date of your return.

Because certain states do not have a state income tax, you would not submit a return or an extension request in such states.

You may prepare the right state-specific form using commercial tax preparation software, or you can find it on the website of your state’s tax office.

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The state extension, like the federal extension, functions merely to provide you extra time to submit your return, not to pay your taxes. If possible, assess your debt and make a payment to avoid penalties and interest.

Special Rules

You may extend the tax payment due under two specific conditions, according to the IRS.

Out of the country

You will be granted an automatic two-month extension to submit your return and pay any federal income tax due if you are a U.S. citizen or resident alien and are either: on the usual due date of your return:

  • Living outside the United States and Puerto Rico, and your primary place of business or duty is outside the United States and Puerto Rico
  • Outside the United States and Puerto Rico for military or naval service

Remember to include a statement with your return that explains why you were granted the extension. It’s also worth noting that if you owe money at the time of filing, interest will accrue on any taxes not paid by the original due date.

Combat zone extension

If one of the following two scenarios applies, the deadline for submitting tax returns and paying taxes is automatically extended:

  • You are in the armed services and serving in a conflict zone, or you have qualifying service outside of a combat zone.
  • You are serving in the armed services on a deployment outside the United States, away from your normal duty station, as part of a contingency operation.

If you fall into one of these two categories, your deadline for reporting and paying taxes is extended for 180 days after any of the following events:

  • Your final day in a fighting zone or participating in a contingency operation
  • The final day of any continuous qualifying hospitalization for a military injury sustained in a conflict zone or during a crisis operation.

The number of days you had left to file when you joined service is added to those 180 days.

How Do I Know My Tax Extension Request Has Been Approved?

If you send Form 4868 to the IRS online, you should get an email within 24 hours verifying receipt. For mail applications, you will not get an email and will most likely need to phone the IRS to ensure that your request is being processed correctly.

Silence is usually a wonderful thing. Unless there is a problem with your tax extension, the IRS will not contact you. That doesn’t happen very frequently, but a tax extension request might be refused on occasion.

Why Might a Tax Extension Request Be Rejected?

If you file on time and accurately fill out the form, you should have no trouble securing an extension nine times out of ten.

Most applications are rejected because of small flaws that are readily remedied. If it comes down to a typo or supplying information that does not match IRS records, the tax authorities will normally allow you a few days to correct the mistakes and resubmit the form—this time correctly.

Unrealistic tax obligation projections are frowned upon by the IRS. If it disagrees with your statistics, your request for an extension may be refused, and you may even face a penalty.

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How Do I File an Extension for My Taxes?

By completing and filing Form 4868, you may seek an extension of time to file your individual federal income tax returns. This form, which may be completed online or by mail, should automatically extend the date for filing by around six months if no problems arise.

Can I File a Tax Extension Electronically Free of Charge?

You certainly can. If your adjusted gross income (AGI) is less than the yearly threshold, you may electronically seek an automatic tax-filing extension via the IRS Free File program. Higher-income taxpayers may utilize the IRS Free Fillable Forms if they are comfortable filing their taxes. If this is not the case, numerous tax-software businesses provide free filing under specific circumstances.

Is It Easy to File a Tax Extension?

Yes, obtaining an extension is a rather simple procedure. All you have to do is get Form 4868, complete it, and return it to the IRS, either online or by mail, before the deadline. The form itself isn’t particularly lengthy, but estimating your overall tax due for the tax year might be difficult at times.

Is There a Penalty for Filing for a Tax Extension?

No, there is no penalty for requesting an extension. In most circumstances, not paying on time, not paying at all, or not paying enough results in fines. If you do not pay what you owe, the IRS will charge you interest on the unpaid balance until your payment is entirely cleared. If it is less than 90% of the amount, you may be subject to a late payment penalty.

When Is the Deadline for Filing 2021 Taxes?

Unless the IRS is obliged to extend the deadline, federal taxes for 2021 should be submitted by April 18, 2022—the customary April 15 due falls on Emancipation Day in 2022. If you obtain an extension by that date, you will have until Oct. 15, 2022 to file your 2021 tax return.

The Bottom Line

Extra time to collect, evaluate, prepare, and file your tax return may relieve stress and enable you to be more comprehensive with your return. Requesting an extension is straightforward, and you do not need to explain why to the IRS.

Most petitions are automatically granted, and the IRS will only inform you if yours is refused.

You may submit your tax return whenever you want before the extension ends, and you do not need to include a copy of Form 4868 with it. Just remember to pay any federal taxes owed by the tax deadline for that year, and check with your state for state income tax return laws.

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