Directions On How To File a Tax Extension

Written by Tonya Chin. Posted in Taxes

Unable to file your taxes on time this year? Don’t worry; you can easily get an automatic six month extension of time to file your federal income taxes from the Internal Revenue Service. You don’t even have to have a good reason, as filing for an extension does not require any explanation. However, before you decide to file for an extension, you should make sure to understand what it means and when you should file.

What It Means

You should only file for an extension if you need more time to file, not if you need more time to pay. If you owe money you should always pay the IRS by the deadline, even if you can’t pay the full amount. Paying any amounts owed will help you avoid penalties and interest. If you still owe the government tax after the deadline to file, you will also owe interest on any tax not paid until you pay it. The late penalty is usually half of 1 percent of any tax (other than estimated tax) not paid by the deadline, charged each month.

When To File

For 2013, the deadline to file your tax return is by April 15. This is also the same deadline for which you must file your extension. If you are out of the country on the regular due date of your return, you are allowed two extra months to file your return without an extension. If you get an extension, you will have six months—until October 15—to file your tax return.

How To File An Extension

Once you’ve decided that getting an extension to file your taxes is the best option for you, all you have to do is fill out a form and send it to the IRS. Here is a step by step guide on how to do that.

  1. Estimate What You Owe

The first step is to make any payments that you owe to the government so that you don’t get hit with penalties and fees in the future. Try to come up with an estimate of how much in income taxes you might owe the federal government. The most basic, and perhaps least accurate, way to do this is to first determine your entire income for the past year. Then, using the current year’s tax tables from the IRS determine how must tax you owe. Deduct from that any amount you have already paid as income tax and that is an estimate of how much you owe. Of course, that leaves out standard exemptions, deductions and credits. There are also various tax calculators available on websites that you can use, like’s 1040 Tax Calculator which may help you determine a more accurate number. Once you have an estimate of what you owe, decide how you want to pay (check, money order, credit or debit card). You will make your payment when you file your tax extension form.

  1. Fill Out An Extension Form

Next go to the IRS website and download Form 4868, the Application For Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Tax Return. Follow the directions and fill out the form.

  1. Make Your Payment

After you fill out the form, you can include your payment with it. Make the check or money order payable to the “United States Treasury.” Do not send cash. Write your social security number, daytime phone number and “2012 Form 4868” on your check or money order. You could also pay by credit or debit card following IRS instructions, but this method is subject to fees. You can use the free Electronic Federal Tax Payment System on the IRS website. On the website, you must enroll in EFTPS before you can use it. You will receive a confirmation number if you pay by credit or debit card, or EFTPS. Keep the number for your records.

  1. Mail Your Extension Form

If you choose to pay by check or money order, include it with your extension form and send the form by mail. On page four of the form, you will find the address to where you should send the form, depending on what state you live in. If you choose to pay electronically, then you can submit the extension form without payment.

  1. Other Ways To File The Extension Form

If you do not want to mail your form, there are other ways to file for an extension. You can file electronically by accessing the IRS e-file using your home computer. If you don’t mind paying a fee, you can use a tax professional or tax preparation software, like TurboTax or TaxAct, to file for an extension.

More Help

The most important thing to remember when filing for an extension is that it’s only a time extension, not a payment extension. Always pay what you owe or as much as you can by the deadline. If you need more help or have any questions when you’re filing for an extension, you can read the instructions and publications for filing your taxes on the IRS website. You can also call the toll-free customer service line at 1-800-829-1040 if you have any questions.


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Tonya Chin

Tonya Chin

Tonya Chin is a financial writer based in Los Angeles. She received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has three years’ experience writing about fixed income securities. When she’s not writing about finance, she enjoys practicing yoga and playing the piano.

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