Source: The Motley Fool.
April 15, the deadline for filing your tax return, is fast
approaching. Although the deadline may seem set in stone, it's
possible to get an extension for filing your individual tax
return. The IRS will grant an extension in most any circumstance
so long as you file the correct paperwork by April 15.
Getting an extension is fairly simple, but it does have a few
Do the paperwork
The IRS grants a six-month extension to the
filing deadline to people who submit Form 4868 (link opens PDF)
by April 15. The form is called "Application for Automatic
Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return," and
you can find it online. The new deadline for people who file for
an extension is Oct. 15. Obtaining an extension is a painless
process; you do not have to provide a reason for the extension,
as it is granted automatically. The IRS will not contact you if
your extension is accepted; you will only hear from the IRS if
the extension is denied.
When you eventually file your taxes, you do not need to attach
a copy of Form 4868 to your tax return; your return and the
extension request are filed separately. However, if you submitted
a payment toward your tax bill with your extension request, you
need to report that on your taxes. Form 4868 (linked above) tells
you on which line to report your payment. For example, if you
file your taxes using Form 1040, report your extension payment in
If you do not submit paperwork on time, the IRS charges a
"late filing penalty." The penalty is only charged if you file
your taxes after the due date (or, if you file for an extension,
after the new, extended deadline). The IRS typically levies 5% of
the amount due for each month that your return is late, with a
maximum charge of 25%. A return submitted more than 60 days after
the deadline will have a minimum penalty of $135 or the balance
of the tax due on your return -- whichever is smaller.
Make a payment
When requesting an extension, you need to know that you are only
getting an extension for filing your tax return, not for paying
taxes you owe. It is important to accurately estimate your tax
burden and submit a payment (if necessary) by April 15 so that
you do not have to pay interest or late fees on top of your
If your tax payment is late, then there are, of course,
This is a separate penalty from the late filing charge
. Failure to pay taxes by April 15 results in a penalty of 0.5%
of any tax not paid, and the penalty is applied for each month
after the deadline. Even if you have completed the appropriate
extension paperwork by April 15, the IRS can still charge a
penalty for taxes not received by then. If you are able to
demonstrate a reasonable cause for not paying your return on
time, the IRS may waive this fee. Attach an explanation to your
tax return. Do not include an explanation with Form 4868.
If you live outside the U.S. or are serving in a combat zone,
there are special rules for receiving an extension. Taxpayers who
live outside of the United States automatically get two extra
months to file returns and pay any taxes owed without filing Form
4868. Members of the military who are deployed outside of the
United States receive an automatic six-month extension for filing
their taxes. You can learn more about the deadlines for those
serving in the Armed Forces here.
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