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How to Ask the IRS for More Time to File Your Tax Return

In most cases, it's a simple matter of filing just one form

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Despite the due date normally falling on April 15, you don't have to file your tax return with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by mid-April each year. The IRS is willing to move this deadline back for you by six months. All you have to do is ask. For certain groups of taxpayers who have suffered hardships from natural disasters, the government may grant automatic extensions, and you may not need to ask at all.

How to File an Extension

Filing an extension is one of the simpler tax challenges you'll ever encounter, but you should understand what it does and doesn't do.

Taxpayers should file Form 4868 to get a six-month extension on their tax-filing deadline. An extension doesn't give you additional time to pay, though. The IRS will charge interest, and sometimes even penalties, on tax payments made after the applicable due date. Thus, the earlier you settle your debt with the IRS, the better.

It's worth the frustration of paying taxes and any penalties by the tax deadline even if you file an extension because it will save you from greater frustration when your penalties compound and you have to pay more later.

The first step in asking for an extension is to create a rough draft of your tax return. It's important to prepare a rough draft to see whether you will receive a tax refund or owe taxes, even if you don't plan on filing your return by the original due date.

If you use tax preparation software, these programs will likely offer to e-file Form 4868 for you, usually at no charge. Provide the necessary information, and make sure that you do so before midnight on the deadline day. It can take from five to 20 minutes to file the extension online, so give yourself enough time to finish before midnight.

The IRS offers a list of mailing addresses for sending Form 4868 if you want to submit it the old-fashioned way. Your extension must be postmarked on or before the April 15 deadline if you mail it rather than electronically file the form with tax preparation software.

The IRS extended the tax-filing deadline in 2020 and 2021. The 2022 tax deadline is April 18, barring any circumstances that would require the IRS to push the deadline back.

It's a good idea to send the extension form by certified mail with a return receipt requested if you decide to mail it. The receipt proves that you did indeed send in your extension request, when you did so, and that the IRS received the form.

How To Pay

Once you file, you may find that you owe taxes. If you do, you'll need to mail a check with the extension form. Otherwise, mail only the form. You can also go to the IRS Direct Pay website to pay if you filed Form 4868 online. Some software providers are set up to allow you to pay by direct debit from your bank account when you file the extension form through them.

Filing Extensions for Expats 

Americans who live in other countries have an automatic extra two months to file their taxes, which means their 2022 deadline is June 15. If you're living abroad and the extended tax deadline doesn't afford you the time you need to file, you can request an extension by filing Form 4868. Your extension will last four months. Expats also must pay any taxes owed by April 15, or interest will accrue.

If you haven't met the physical presence or bona fide resident test while living abroad, you can file Form 2350 to extend your filing deadline until after you expect to pass one of the two tests.

NOTE: The Balance does not provide tax or investment advice or financial services. The information is being presented without consideration of the investment objectives, risk tolerance, or financial circumstances of any specific investor and might not be suitable for all investors. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal.

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