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Help – It’s Tax Time and I Need to File an Extension!

It’s time to file your tax return, but what if you are not ready.  If you need more time to file your taxes — either because you had a family emergency, couldn’t get your papers together in time, or were just overwhelmed — you have options when it comes to filing a tax extension.  

But contrary to popular belief, a tax extension doesn’t give you extra time to pay your taxes: It only buys you extra time to file.

The reasons for filing for an extension on your Federal taxes may include: 

  • Incomplete tax documentation. Since the federal government will grant you an extension just for the asking, you can take advantage of this additional time to ensure your return is accurate. 
  • Unexpected life events 
  • IRA conversions
  • Late-payment penalties

If you need to file for an extension, here is a step-by-step guide direct from the IRS on how to do it. Submit your tax extension electronically or by mail. Regardless of which method you choose, you’ll need to fill out Form 4868 and submit it by the IRS’s extended deadline of April 18, 2022 (or April 19th if you are a Maine and Massachusetts resident). 

 Here’s how to do it: 

  1. Enter your name and address on line 1 of Form 4868. 
  2. Enter your Social Security number on line 2. 
  3. Enter your spouse’s Social Security number on line 3. 
  4. Estimate your total tax liability for 2021 on line 4. 
  5. Enter in the total amount of payments you’ve already made on line 5. 
  6. Subtract line 5 from line 4 and write this number on line 6. This tells you your total balance due. 
  7. Fill in the amount you’re paying on line 7. 
  8. Check box 8 if you’re a US citizen or resident living out of the country. 
  9. Check box 9 if you file Form 1040-NR or 1040-NR-EZ and didn’t receive wages as an employee subject to US income tax withholding. 

You can file a tax extension online and you have several options when it comes to filing electronically. For the most direct route, you can use Free File on the IRS website. When you submit Form 4868 through this software, it goes directly to the IRS database. 

Likewise, if you’re working with a tax professional or using online tax software to file your return, you can submit an extension through them. Simply ask your tax professional if they can submit an extension for you using an e-file. Or, see if your tax software supports Form 4868. If you choose to file your extension electronically, make sure you have a copy of your adjusted gross income from last year. You’ll need to provide this information for verification purposes. 

This year’s tax-filing deadline is April 18. Taxpayers needing more time to file their taxes can get an automatic six-month extension from the IRS. 

Below are five things to know about filing an extension: 

  1. Use IRS Free File to file an extension. IRS Free File allows taxpayers to prepare and e-file their taxes for free. It can also be used to e-file a free extension to file requests. Midnight April 18 is the deadline for receipt of an e-filed extension request. Free File is accessible for tax return preparation and e-filing through Oct. 17. It is only available through IRS.gov.
  2. Use Form 4868. Fill out a request for an extension using Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. The deadline for mailing the form to the IRS is April 18. Form 4868 is available on IRS.gov/forms.
  3. More time to file is not more time to pay. Requesting an extension to file provides taxpayers an additional six months (until Oct. 16) to prepare and file taxes. However, it does not provide additional time to pay the taxes owed. Taxpayers should estimate and pay any owed taxes by April 18 to avoid a potential late-filing penalty. To avoid penalties and interest, pay the full amount owed by the original due date.
  4. Use electronic payment options to get an automatic extension. An extension of time to file will automatically process when taxpayers pay all or part of their taxes electronically by April 18. There is no need to file a paper or electronic Form 4868 when making a payment with IRS Direct Pay, the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) or by debit or credit card.  Select “Form 4868” as the payment type. Keep the confirmation as proof of payment).
  5. The IRS can help. The IRS offers payment options for taxpayers who can’t pay all the taxes they owe. In most cases, they can apply for an installment agreement with the Online Payment Agreement application on IRS.gov. They may also file Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request. If a taxpayer can’t make payments because of financial hardship, the IRS will work with them. 

Taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax returns. Learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.