Need More Time to File Your Taxes? File an Extension!

By | April 15, 2009

If you can’t meet the April 15  filing deadline to file your tax return, you can get an automatic six month extension of time to file from the IRS.


Need More Time to File Your Taxes? File an Extension!

Filing an extension, when you’re not ready to file your federal return, helps you to avoid a late payment penalty which can add up to 25%* of the income taxes you owe. This substantial penalty, can be avoided by taking a few minutes to file an extension along with your tax liability payment.

There are three ways you can request an automatic extension of time to file a U.S. individual income tax return: (1) you can electronically file Form 4868 (PDF), Application For Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Tax Return; (2) you can pay all or part of your estimated income tax due using a credit or debit card or by using the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS); or (3) you can file a paper Form 4868 by mail.


Here is what you need to know about filing a tax extension:

  1. An extension will give you extra time to get your paperwork to the IRS, but it does not extend the time you have to pay any tax due. You will owe interest on any amount not paid by the April 15 deadline, plus a late payment penalty if you have not paid at least 90 percent of your total tax by that date.
  2. If your return is completed but you are unable to pay the full amount of tax due, do not request an extension. File your return on time and pay as much as you can. The IRS will send you a bill or notice for the balance due.  To apply online for a payment agreement, go to and use the pull-down menu under “I need to …” and select “Set Up a Payment Plan.” If you are unable to make payments, call the IRS at 800-829-1040 to discuss your payment options.
  3. Request an extension to file by submitting Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, with the IRS by the April 15, 2009, or make an extension-related electronic credit card payment.  For more information about extension-related credit card payments, see Form 4868.
  4. You can e-file an extension request using tax preparation software on your own computer or by going to a tax preparer that has the software. The IRS will acknowledge receipt of the extension request if you file by computer.
  5. You can use Free File Fillable Forms to file for an extension.  You can access Free File Fillable Forms via the IRS Web site at
  6. If you ask for an extension via computer, you can also choose to pay any expected balance due by authorizing an electronic funds withdrawal from a checking or savings account. You will need the appropriate bank routing and account numbers and must also have available the adjusted gross income from your 2008 federal income tax return to verify your identity.  For information on these and other methods of payment, visit or call 800-TAX-1040 (800-829-1040).
  7. To obtain a copy of Form 4868 or other forms and publications use E-file tax preparation software, download them from or visit your local IRS office.  Forms and publications can be ordered by calling 800-TAX-Form (800-829-3676).  However, telephone requests normally take 10 days to fill and may not arrive before the tax deadline of April 15.

Extensions serve the purpose to allow taxpayers to gather all their information so they can timely file a complete and accurate return without being assessed a late filing penalty. If you fail to file either a tax extension or return by the appropriate filing deadline (March 17 for businesses and April 15 for individuals), the IRS may charge interest on any unpaid Federal taxes, as well as impose a failure-to-file penalty. The interest compounds daily and the rate is currently the Federal short-term rate plus 3%. If you do not file and you owe tax, the failure-to-file penalty is 5% per month (up to 5 months) of the unpaid tax. If your tax return is more than 60 days late, you may be subject to a minimum penalty of $135. The IRS will also impose a failure-to-pay penalty of 0.5% per month (up to 25%) of the tax owed if you file a return or extension but don’t pay all your taxes on time.


Tax Extensions for Individuals

If you are not able to file your federal individual income tax return by the due date, you may be able to get an automatic 6-month extension of time to file. To do so, you must file Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return  by the due date for filing your calendar year return (usually April 15) or fiscal year return. This form is also available en español.

Special rules may apply if you are:

You can also go to Filing Information in Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax (HTML page), for more information regarding the rules for automatic extensions and filing federal individual income tax returns.

Extensions for Corporations, Partnerships, REMICs, and Certain Trusts

  • Form 7004, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File Certain Business Income Tax, Information, and Other Returns
  • Form 1138, Extension of Time for Payment of Taxes by a Corporation Expecting a Net Operating Loss Carryback

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