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Last Minute Tax Tips: How to File for an Extension

April 14, 2015

If you believe that you might miss the April 15 deadline for filing your tax return, you should get an extension to file. This will save you from the 5% penalty for late filing. However, remember to pay your taxes on time (before Tax Day) even if you get an extension. When you file for an extension, you get six additional months to file your tax return, not to pay your taxes.

Two Ways to Get an Extension

1. To apply for an extension, you can file the paper form – Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return and mail it to the IRS. You must file it before the April 15 filing deadline. If you make a payment with the form, make the check or money order payable to “United States Treasury”. Write your Social Security Number, daytime phone number, and “2014 Form 4868” on the back of your check or money order.

2. Alternatively, you can use the IRS Free File to file your extension electronically. When you do that, make sure that you print a copy for records.

Why File for an Extension

Filing for an extension is free of cost to you. You are given an extension file your return until Oct 15, 2015 without incurring a failure-to-file penalty.

If you owe no taxes and are only required to file your return, then you do not need to take additional action to avoid IRS penalties. However, if you owe taxes, then you should pay them using IRS Direct Pay service or your credit card to avoid a late payment penalty.

When you are using IRS electronic payment options such as Direct Pay or Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, then you do need to file a paper Form 4868. The IRS will automatically process the request for an extension when you pay a part or the full amount of your tax bill.

Special Rules

If you are living outside the U.S., you get an automatic extension of 2 months to file your tax return without needing to file Form 4868. You can only get this automatic extension if you:

Are a U.S. citizen or resident, and on the due date of your return, you were:

  • Living outside the U.S. and Puerto Rico, or
  • You are on duty in the military and are stationed outside the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

This rule is only for return filing. If taxes are not paid by the April 15 deadline, interest will be charged on back taxes. If you are on duty in a combat zone or a qualified hazardous duty area, then you can get additional time.


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