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Need More Time? File a Tax Extension

While it may sound too good to be true, the Internal Revenue Service offers taxpayers an automatic six-month extension if they can't get their federal income tax returns filed by the April 15th deadline. You need to file your request for an income tax extension with the IRS by the filing deadline and you will avoid late-filing penalties if you get your returns filed by Oct. 15th.

However, the extended time to file is not an extension of the time you have to pay your tax bill. You are still required to pay your tax liability by the April 15th deadline. As a result, if you owe taxes for the year, you should estimate what you owe and include the amount due with your extension request. The estimated tax payment will help avoid the late payment penalties that would accrue if you waited until the extended deadline to pay.

Filing for an Extension

There are three ways that a taxpayer can file for a six-month extension for filing their federal tax return:

  1. You can pay a portion of the income tax you owe by the deadline using the IRS's online payment tool and inform the agency that the payment is for an extension. You do not need to file any other documentation. Payments can be made from a bank account using the IRS's Direct Pay service. Payments can also be made by credit card, debit card, digital wallet, PayPal, or Venmo, but additional fees may be charged.
  2. You can file an IRS Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, electronically using tax software like TurboTax or through a tax professional. You can also e-file for free using software providers who have partnered with the IRS free file program, regardless of your income.
  3. You can file a paper version of Form 4868 by mail by the filing deadline.

Other Types of Extensions

Filers in specific tax situations may also get automatic extensions if they qualify.

Disaster Areas

If you live or own a business in an area that has been declared a disaster area by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), you will receive an automatic extension of your time to file. Unlike a standard extension, the disaster extension also provides an extension for paying any tax due. If you reside or work in a disaster area, the IRS will grant you an automatic extension based on your filing address.

The IRS will usually announce the length of the automatic extension and the revised tax deadline for those who live and work in the affected area within a few weeks of the disaster. For a complete list of disaster area extensions, check out the list the IRS maintains on its website.

Taxpayers Living Abroad

U.S. citizens and permanent residents living outside of the United States and U.S. service members stationed abroad will receive an automatic two-month extension to file their return and pay their income taxes. You may be charged interest on payments made after the April 15th filing deadline, even if they are made by the extended deadline.

Combat Zones

Active duty service members and individuals serving a supporting role in a combat zone will receive an extension for filing and paying their taxes. The IRS maintains a list of current combat zones on its website.

Still Have Questions? A Tax Lawyer Can Help

While most taxpayers don't need help filing for an extension, the fact they can't get their taxes done on time may be a sign that they need expert help with tax preparation. The tax filing process can be confusing and some taxpayers wait until the due date to get help. Once you have requested an extension, a local tax lawyer can help you get the documents together that you need to file and address the tax questions you may have regarding how to report your financial information to the IRS.

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