How to File a Tax Extension the Right Way

The federal income tax return has strict filing deadlines. When you do not send your federal tax return on time, you risk incurring penalties and interest.

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Reasons to request a tax return extension

Most taxpayers need more time to gather their documents and figures. In other instances, you're waiting for a corrected information return (e.g., 1099, W-2). And for estate tax returns, the executor cannot locate the paperwork to complete the tax returns. 

TIP: A filing extension does not give you more time to pay the tax.

IRS Form 4868

If you're not ready to file your federal taxes, then the IRS tax extension form can be e-filed or mailed. After you send Form 4868, you do not have to wait for approval from the IRS; it's an automatic extension.

IRS Form 4868 |
Source: IRS Form 4868
Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return
TIP: You can also use the file an extension for free option by visiting the IRS website.

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READ MORE: How to File Taxes Online for Free (Without Extra Fees)

IRS extension tips

Both individual taxpayers and businesses may request a tax extension. 
  • Tax extension due date. Postmark the form no later than the filing due date. 
    • Mailing. Send it certified mail return receipt requested and choose the correct mailing address as specified on the instructions for 4868.
    • E-filing. Keep your electronic confirmation receipt for future reference.
  • Estimate taxes owed. Do not place zeros on your form; take the time to make a proper estimate. Otherwise, the IRS may render the request invalid. (Reg. Sec. 1.6081-4(b); Rev. Rul. 79-113).
READ MORE: When are taxes due?

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DISCLAIMER: Please consult with your accountant, attorney, and financial advisor before implementing any information displayed on this website. DIY research does not replace the advice of a licensed professional who has thoroughly reviewed your file.