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Not Ready To File Your Tax Return? Here’s How To Get An Extension

The tax filing deadline for individual taxpayers is just a week away. If you’ve been pushing off filing, you may want to consider filing for an extension. It only takes a few minutes, there are no special hoops to jump through, and there’s no fee payable to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). And contrary to popular belief – and what some suggest this time of year – filing for an extension isn’t an audit trigger.

The IRS understands that there are legitimate reasons why taxpayers may need more time to file. The great thing about filing for an extension early on is that you don’t need to tell anyone – not your mother, not your best friend and not even the IRS – why you’re making the request since the extension is automatically granted if you follow the rules.

To file for an extension, you can:

How easy is it? Here’s the entire Form 4868:

The regular “timely filing” rules apply – so be sure and get your extension postmarked or e-file accepted by the end of the day on July 15, 2020.

But here’s where things get interesting. An extension allows you six more months to get your return to the IRS and not be subject to the late-filing penalty from the original filing date of April 15, 2020. The extension does not start the clock running on July 15, 2020. In other words, with a six-month extension in 2020, you’ll have until October 15, 2020, to file a return.

To file an extension, you’ll need:

  • Your name (and spouse’s name if you’re filing jointly) and address;
  • Your Social Security number (and spouse’s Social Security number if you’re filing jointly);
  • An estimate of your total tax liability for 2019;
  • Total of what you have already paid for the 2019 tax year (including withholding and estimated payments); and
  • The amount you’re paying with the extension, if any.

Remember that an extension is an extension of the time to file and not an extension of time to pay. If you expect to owe at tax time and you’re filing for an extension, you should make a payment with your extension request to avoid additional interest and penalty. 

If you need to make a payment with your extension, you can send in a check or money order with your form 4868, pay online, or pay by phone. You can also pay by making a direct transfer from your bank account using Direct Pay, using the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS, registration required), or by debit or credit card (third-party charges may apply). Some services need an extra day or so for processing.

Some taxpayers get an automatic extension of time to file without having to file. Those include:

  • Members of the military and others serving in combat zones or hazardous zone areas generally have until at least 180 days after they leave the zone to file returns and pay any taxes due.
  • Taxpayers affected by natural disasters may have extra time. In particular, the IRS extended tax filing deadlines for those individuals and businesses affected by the April tornadoes. For more details, check the disaster relief page on the IRS website.

While it’s always a relief to have your tax return over and done, it’s not the end of the world if that doesn’t happen by the due date. It’s always better to file a complete, correct return on an extension than a rushed, flawed return by Tax Day. So go ahead, file for an extension. And then go back to whatever it was that you really wanted to do, like watching Hamilton or Knives Out one more time…

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