How to File a Federal Tax Extension

April 15 looms on the horizon. There may be any number of reasons that you are not prepared to file a tax return, from not having your dividend statements back, to waiting to get a home buyer tax credit, to straightforward procrastination. No matter your reasons, you can actually file for an extension. Any taxpayer is eligible to get a six month extension for filing a tax return. You have to file for the extension by April 15, and then you will have until October 15 to get your documentation together and file your actual return.

Photo by alancleaver_2000 via Flickr

Filing an extension is a good idea if you don’t think you’ll be able to get your return together by April 15. The penalty for a “failure to file” can be quite hefty. As long as you file your extension paperwork — it’s only on page! — by April 15, you can avoid this penalty.

You still have to pay what you owe by April 15!

Be warned, though, that filing for an extension doesn’t get you another six months to actually pay your taxes. You are required to estimate how much you owe, and submit payment by April 15. The IRS starts charging interest from April 16, so it’s a good idea to pay something. Any tax refund you are entitled to will, as you might have guessed, be mailed to you after you file your return in October.

Filing Your Tax Extension

It is fairly easy to file a tax extension these days. You just need to fill out Form 4868.

If you use tax preparation software, like Tax Cut or TurboTax, it’s easy to file your tax extension. These programs have the appropriate forms, and the ability to allow you to send in the form electronically, or print out your completed form and then mail it in. If you have a professional prepare your taxes, he or she can usually file your tax extension electronically on your behalf.

Even without tax preparation software, you can still file your Form 4868 electronically using the fillable forms from the IRS. Just fill in your form online, and then submit it using approved methods directly from the IRS web site. In many cases, it is free to file your federal tax extension, and it only takes a few minutes.

If you are more old school, it is possible to file for a tax extension using paper methods. Many post offices, community government buildings and libraries offer tax form packets, and you can pick them up for free. Additionally, you can download Form 4868 and then fill it out and mail it in. You can also obtain the proper form by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (829-3676).

The nice thing about filing a tax extension is that it doesn’t prevent you from filing your return electronically. In six months, when you are ready to file your tax return, you can do so over the Internet. This is a definite step above filing an amended return, which can only be done via paper. This can cause delays in processing and receiving your refund. With an electronically filed extension and return, you will get your refund — if you have one coming — faster.

Once your tax extension is filed, the clock is ticking until October 15. If you have been procrastinating, now is the time to get into gear and start doing what you can to get your documentation together.

About the Author

By , on Mar 11, 2010
Miranda Marquit
Miranda is a professional personal finance journalist. She is a contributor for several personal finance web sites. Her work has been mentioned in and linked to from, USA Today, The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications. She also has her own personal finance blog: Planting Money Seeds.

2013 Tax Center

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2013 Important Tax and Filing Dates

Leave Your Comment (7 Comments)

  1. angelina says:

    tax extension filing is the best option if you want to get more time to prepare and file accurate returns, and the best part is IRS never asks for a reason.

  2. Thomas says:

    I really never paid much attention to tax extension. I guess it is more of thinking it would be hard to understand. Thanks for the great advice and making things clear.

  3. Thanks for adding this info to your site some people really don’t know how file tax extension and tax return online.

  4. James says:

    great advice. i always completed my taxes on time i mean every year, until last year and i have to say this information is dead on.


  5. Angelo says:

    E-filing is the way to go. In fact it’s the only way you get a confirmation from the IRS–if you do it with paper, you won’t hear a thing. With e-filing, you can get confirmed and approved in a matter of hours.

  6. Joel says:

    I pretty much always count on filing an extension. I did used to think a long time ago though that I could delay paying what I owe which is definitely not the case as you mentioned!

  7. Wes Masters says:

    Possibly the best part about filing an extension is that you don’t need a reason. Literally there isn’t a place for it on the form. So the IRS doesn’t care. Just make sure you file it on time. They definitely care about that!

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