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How to File a Tax Extension with The IRS - Quick and Easy Guide

Oct 02, 2023 By Susan Kelly

Taxes can be a tricky business. Sometimes, life throws you a curveball, and you cannot meet the looming tax deadline. It happens to the best of us. But here's the good news: you can file a tax extension with the IRS and gain some breathing room—no need to panic or lose sleep.

In this conversational guide, we'll break down filing a tax extension with the IRS in plain, straightforward language.

Filing a Tax Extension

Following are the steps you have to follow when filing a tax extension:

Step 1: Determine Your Eligibility

Filing a tax extension with the IRS is relatively straightforward, but not everyone is eligible. The IRS grants automatic extensions, usually for six months, but there are a few things to keep in mind:

Individuals: Most individuals are eligible for an automatic extension. There is no need to provide a reason; you'll get it automatically, allowing more time to file your return.

Businesses: Businesses, including sole proprietors and partnerships, can also get an automatic extension. However, corporations might have different rules, so it's best to check with a tax professional.

Military Personnel: Military members on duty outside the U.S. can typically get an automatic extension as well, giving them extra time to fulfill their tax obligations.

Tax Due: Remember that filing an extension only extends the time to file your return, not the time to pay any taxes owed. You're still expected to estimate and pay your taxes by the original deadline to avoid penalties and interest.

Step 2: Choose Your Method

The IRS offers multiple methods for filing a tax extension, so you can pick the one that suits you best:

E-file: The quickest and most convenient option. You can e-file your extension request using tax software or through a tax professional.

Paper Form: If you prefer the old-school approach, you can fill out Form 4868, the Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. Mail it to the address specified in the instructions.

Step 3: Complete the Required Forms

For most individuals, Form 4868 is the go-to form for requesting an extension. Here's what you need to do:

Personal Information: Fill in your name, address, and Social Security Number (SSN).

Estimate Your Taxes: You're required to estimate your total tax liability for the year and the amount you've already paid. Be as accurate as possible to avoid penalties.

Payment: If you owe taxes, pay with your extension request. This will help minimize penalties and interest. If you can't pay the total amount, pay as much as possible to reduce what you'll owe later.

Step 4: Submit Your Extension Request

Now that you've filled out the necessary forms, it's time to submit your extension request. Here's how to do it:

E-filing: If you're e-filing, follow the instructions provided by your chosen tax software or tax professional. They will guide you through the process, making it convenient and efficient.

Paper Form: If you're mailing a paper form, send it to the correct address. The address varies depending on your location and whether you're making a payment. Check the instructions that come with Form 4868 for the right address to ensure your request reaches the IRS without delays.

Step 5: Keep Records

Once you've filed for an extension, keeping records of your submission is crucial. This includes copies of the filed forms and any confirmation or acknowledgment you received. These records will come in handy for any questions or issues, ensuring a smooth process.

Step 6: What Happens Next?

After successfully filing for an extension, you'll generally have six months to file your tax return. For most people, this means your new deadline is October 15th. However, the deadline will be the next business day if the 15th falls on a weekend or holiday. Remember to mark this date on your calendar to avoid any last-minute rushes.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Filing a tax extension is a relatively simple process, but there are a few common mistakes you should avoid:

Not Paying on Time: Remember that an extension to file is not an extension to pay. You're still required to estimate and pay your taxes by the original deadline to avoid penalties and interest.

Underestimating Taxes Owed: If you underestimate your taxes when filing for an extension, you might owe more than you thought, along with penalties and interest. Be as accurate as possible in your estimation.

Missing the Deadline: If you miss the deadline for filing the extension, you may face penalties for late filing. It's best to file for an extension as early as possible if you know you won't meet the original deadline.

Incomplete Information: Ensure all required information is accurate and complete when filing for an extension to avoid processing delays and potential issues with your request.

Conclusion

Filing a tax extension with the IRS is a practical solution when life throws you a curveball or your financial situation gets a bit too complex. It's a way to buy yourself some extra time to ensure your tax return is accurate and complete.

Remember, the key to a stress-free tax extension process is to determine your eligibility, choose the right filing method, complete the necessary forms accurately, submit your request on time, and keep records of your submission.

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