How To File for a Tax Extension

Tax form photo

There are many situations that may cause you to be unable to file your tax return on time. The Internal Revenue Service is aware of this and has created a procedure for people in this situation to follow. If you have a problem that keeps you from filing your return by the deadline, you can request an extension. As of 2006, the extension is six months from the original filing deadline. You may file at any time during that six months, but you MUST file by the new deadline. Remember: while nearly all extensions are granted automatically, you must follow the IRS procedure in order to get one. You can get the automatic extension a couple of different ways:

  1. On Paper Complete a copy of form 4868 "Application for Automatic Extension of Time To file U.S. Individual Income Tax Return." You can get a copy of this form anywhere that provides preprinted tax forms, such as a library or post office, or by going to the IRS website and printing out a copy to complete.
  2. Online You can efile a form 4868 by using either your personal computer or a professional tax preparation service. If you do it yourself, you will need a standard tax software package.

Completing the form:

  • Part I Identification Enter your name as it appears on your Social Security card, and your current mailing address where noted on Line 1. Enter your Social Security number (and that of your spouse if you are filing a joint return) on Line 2. Proofread carefully; the name and SSN combination on your return must match what the IRS has on file or your extension may be rejected. This is particularly important when filing electronically.
  • Part II Individual Income Tax Estimate your total tax liability--the total amount of tax on your income after all deductions and credits--and enter it on line 4. If you are filing for an extension because you do not have all the necessary information to complete the return, you will have to estimate. Then enter all payments--all Federal income taxes withheld from your income plus any estimated payments you have made--on line 5. Then subtract line 5 from line 4. This will give you your balance due; enter it on line 6. If line 5 is larger than line 4, enter a zero on line 6.

Keep in mind: getting an extension of your filing date does not mean you have an extension for your payment date if you owe money. There are several ways to make a payment with your extension; go to for payment instructions.


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