For more filing deadlines, see the Tax Calendar.
For information about filing an extension with your state, see the directory of state tax extensions.
- Create a rough draft of your tax return. This helps to get an idea of whether you might have a refund or might have to pay. If you need a very quick and reasonably accurate estimate of what you might owe (or have as a refund), take a look at these very helpful and pretty easy to use tax estimating applets.
- Download the Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return (PDF). Fill it out. If you will owe tax, write a check for the approximate amount of money you owe.
- Mail the extension form with your check. Make sure you mail it by April 15th. Here's a list of mailing addresses for sending Form 4868 to the IRS. It's generally a good idea to send the extension form by certified mail with return receipt requested. This method of mail service provides proof that you mailed your extension and proof that the IRS received the form.
- Alternatively, you can file your extension online. Just make sure you e-file your extension before midnight. And since it takes about five to twenty minutes to file the extension online, you should give yourself enough time to finish before midnight.
- If you owe the IRS, you must pay your tax in full by April 15th. If you do not pay your tax in full, the IRS will calculate penalties and interest on your outstanding balance. The penalty for not filing is 5% per month up to a maximum penalty of 25% of the balance due. By contrast, the failure to pay penalty is 0.5% per month, plus interest. The bottom line? If you think you owe, file an extension as a way to avoid the late filing penalty.
- It's possible to file an extension and pay federal taxes using a credit or debit card. There are several IRS-approved credit and debit card services, which can be found on the IRS Web page Paying Taxes by Credit or Debit Card. Be aware that these are third-party services and charge fees for processing tax payments. The IRS states that "If you pay part ($1 minimum) or all of the tax you estimate you will owe using a debit/credit card, you will not need to file an extension form, such as Form 4868. Your payment will act as the extension." (Source: IRS.gov)
- You can also file your extension using your tax preparation software. Get instructions for how to file an extension using TaxAct, TurboTax, and H&R Block At Home.
- You no longer need to request a 2nd extension (old IRS Form 2688). This form was used to request an additional 2-month extension when the first extension provided only a 4-month extension of time. Now that Form 4868 provides an automatic 6-month extension, you will no longer need to submit Form 2688.
- Tax laws relating to extensions: Internal Revenue Code section 6081, and the related Treasury Regulations section 1.6081-4.
What You Need
- Form 4868
- Rough draft of your tax return