Tax Extension Rules and Guidelines

Chris Bibey
by Chris Bibey

 

Before you decide to file for a tax extension you need to be well aware of the rules and guidelines. It is important to know what the IRS is expecting from you, as well as what you get when you file for a tax extension.

Once you are familiar with the following information, you should be able to request an extension of time to file with little to no difficulty:

First things first, a tax extension must be filed by April 15th. This is the original due date of the standard 1040 income tax form. If you miss this deadline without requesting a tax extension, the IRS will assume you are a delinquent taxpayer.

You should know well in advance if you are going to need a tax extension. Since filing for an extension is relatively easy, there is really no excuse for missing the April 15th deadline.

As you move forward, note that an extension gives you more time to file your tax return. A tax extension does not give you additional time to pay any taxes you owe. If you owe taxes, you need to send your payment to the IRS by April 15th to avoid a penalty.

If you realize that you need to file a tax extension, you must complete and submit Tax Form 4868 (Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return) to the IRS. Once you’ve requested a tax extension, your return will be due six months after the original deadline, which is October 15th.

If you need even more time to file, you can include a personal letter to the IRS explaining why you require more than a six month extension. If approved, you may be granted an additional two months which will make your tax return due by December 15th of the same year.

While filling out Tax Form 4868 you will need to provide personal information such as your Social Security number, address, and an estimate of the amount of tax that you owe. Since you are not filing a complete return, you can estimate your tax liability and then pay that amount.

If you are due a tax refund you do not need to file a tax extension. There is no penalty for filing late unless you owe the IRS additional money. To determine if you owe money or are due a tax refund, you will have to fill out some portions of your income tax return (i.e. Form 1040).

The IRS does not require taxpayers to explain or give reasons for their tax extension request. That being said, additional extensions are rare, though special rules may apply for taxpayers living outside the country or serving active military duty.