How to File an Extension for your Tax Return

Do you need more time to file your tax return? While this may sound like a daunting task, filing an extension for your federal return is one of the easiest things when it comes to taxes. It’s as easy as completing the appropriate form and submitting it. Yet, why would you want to do this?

Quite simply, it allows you some room to breathe. Perhaps you got busy and forgot the deadline was approaching, or maybe you’re still searching for certain documents required to complete the return. If you know you won’t meet the IRS deadline of April 15, simply file IRS Tax Form 4868, and buy yourself some time. 

What is a Tax Extension?

When filing for an extension, you are basically asking the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to provide you an additional six months to file your federal tax return. So, rather than having a deadline of April 15, the extension will give you until October 15. 

To begin the process, you simply file Form 4868 either on or before April 15 in place of your return. Extensions are automatic, so you don’t have to wait for the IRS to approve your request. 

As soon as they receive the completed form, the process is over for you. Once this happens, you just have to worry about getting the return filed before your new deadline. 

What happens if You Owe Money on Federal Taxes?

If you owe money to the IRS, unfortunately, all payments are still due by the original tax deadline. Filing an extension will not generally give you more time to pay your taxes, it simply gives you additional time to file the return. It’s important to know that if you don’t pay on time, the IRS can charge interest and penalties on all payments received after the deadline. 

So, to put it simply, the extension allows you additional time to file the return, but not additional time to pay the taxes due. 

The best plan of action is to send the estimated payment amount when you submit the extension form. It’s okay to estimate the amount owed, and you should do this even if you’re not 100% sure you owe money. 

In general, it’s a good idea to prepare the tax return ahead of time, even if you don’t plan to file it in time. This will give you an idea if you will owe money, or not. It also gives you a good idea of how much to send. 

Don’t worry, if you estimate wrong, and overpay, the IRS will issue you a refund. When it comes to paying taxes, it’s always better to be safe than face penalties. Alternatively, if you don’t pay them enough you won’t be penalized or charged interest. Instead, you’ll simply owe the amount you were short.

What if You Can’t Make the Entire Payment?

If you cannot afford to make your tax payment in full, many times you can set up installment agreements with the IRS. This will allow you to off the debt overtime. If you visit the IRS website, you can apply online to see if you qualify for a payment plan. They will notify you immediately if you are approved or not. 

How Do You File for an Extension?

You’ll need to go to the Internal Revenue Service’s website and download Form 4868. This form is also called the “Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return”. 

If you previously calculated your taxes, and found that you owe money, go ahead and write a check for that amount and mail it along with the extension. 

The form will include a list of addresses which tells you where to send your payment and the form. Where you have to mail will depend on which state you reside. It’s always a good idea to send the extension via certified mail with a return receipt requested. Doing so will give you proof of the date it was mailed, and inform you when the IRS receives it. Just keep in mind it has to be postmarked on or before April 15. 

If you’d rather do the process online, you can do so right on the IRS’ website. If you do it this way, you won’t have to worry about mailing the paper form, and you can use IRS Direct Pay to make the required payment. While completing the payment be sure to mark it as an extension payment. The IRS will receive the information and know that you are requesting an extension. 

In the end, ignoring a tax return is a bad idea. It’s best to be proactive, and try to work with the IRS to make an arrangement that makes you both happy. Filing an extension is a great way to buy more time when it comes to filing the paperwork. However, since you will not be given extra time to pay, you’ll also want to address that immediately if you think you owe taxes.