There are a lot of reasons why you might not be ready to file your income tax returns on time. Maybe you didn’t receive all your tax information yet. Or you’ve been traveling a lot for business or family needs. Whatever the reason, the IRS gives you an automatic six-month extension to file a complete tax return.
That means six more months to get it together – or engage in more procrastination. Either one, you never have to tell the IRS your reason. However, you or your tax preparer must let the IRS know about your plans to extend your time to file. Most states provide an automatic extension when the taxpayer requests an IRS extension.
How to Get an Automatic Extension to File Your Returns
Individual taxpayers use IRS Form 4868 to request an automatic extension to file their federal income tax return. Businesses, estates, and other tax entities use a different form, but the process is essentially the same. The form can be filed on the IRS’ website, e-filed using approved tax software, or in paper form. The request must be postmarked or date-stamped before midnight of the original due date.
The extension request asks for taxpayer name, address, and tax ID number. There is also a space for the taxpayer’s estimated tax liability and the tax amount withheld, paid in estimates, or applied from a prior year.
File Later but Pay by April 15
If you are getting a refund, your extension is automatically approved. But you still have to wait for your refund until the completed return is filed. If you will owe more in taxes than you’ve already paid in, you must pay the estimated amount due with your extension request. Failure to pay will result in an underpayment penalty and interest on the unpaid amount, accrued until it is paid. Seems like a double standard, but that’s just the way it is.
Where to Learn More
You can get more details about extending your return and paying any tax due at http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc304.html. A qualified tax professional could also help you with make sure you correctly extend your tax returns and avoid any underpayment penalties.