Tips for getting a tax extension

Elizabeth Rosen
by Elizabeth Rosen, Contributor

Are you familiar with the tax extension process? Even if you don’t know the first thing about requesting an extension, learning how to do so is relatively fast and easy.

READ: Tax extension rules for all 50 states

Here are some tips you can follow to ensure that you receive a tax extension.

Tax Extension Tip #1

You must file for a tax extension using Tax Form 4868 (Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return) and submit it by April 15th. You should know ahead of time if you are going to need a tax extension ― do not wait until the last minute to begin preparing your taxes.

Tax Extension Tip #2

You do not need to file for a tax extension if you are due a tax refund. There is no penalty for filing past the April 15th deadline unless you owe money to the IRS. That being said, just because you are owed a refund does not mean you should continue to put off filing your tax return. If you can file your taxes on time, you should. Also note that the longer you wait to file, the longer it will take to get your tax refund.

Tax Extension Tip #3

When filling out IRS Tax Form 4868, make sure that your personal information is completely accurate. Along with this, you will need to send payment for your estimated tax liability. If you are going to make a mistake, there’s a chance that this where it will happen. Many taxpayers fill out the form but forget to remit payment along with it.

Tax Extension Tip #4

A tax extension is going to buy you 6 more months to file your income tax return, leading to a new due date of October 15th. Again, this does not mean that you are getting a longer time to pay what you owe. Any taxes due must still be paid by the original filing deadline (April 15) to avoid being charged late fees and penalties.

Tax Extension Tip #5

Do you need more than 6 months to get your documents together and file your tax return? If so, you can include a note with Form 4868 explaining your situation and requesting additional time to file. While the IRS is strict about giving second/additional tax extensions, there are some special rules that apply to taxpayers living outside the United States, as well as those who are currently serving on active military duty. In those cases, you may be granted 2 extra months to file, which would make your tax return due on December 15th.

Tax Extension Tip #6

If you need an extension for your Federal tax return, there is a good chance that you’ll also need an extension for your state tax return. Note that state tax extension rules may vary, so make sure you check with your state’s department of revenue/taxation for specific information about filing for a state tax extension.

READ: What to do if you don't have the money to pay the IRS for back taxes

If you find yourself needing an extension of time to file, the above tips will help you get started while also avoiding common tax extension mistakes.