IRS Form 4868 is an official request to the Internal Revenue Service for an extension of time to file your tax return. It's the "Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File," and filing it automatically gives you six more months to prepare and submit your return if you file it according to the rules.
You can file Form 4868 quickly and easily online. The most direct method is to go through IRS Free File, but you can also file it through most reputable tax software programs.
What Is Form 4868?
Filing Form 4868 with the IRS means that your taxes will be due on October 15 rather than April 15, the usual deadline. The form will ask you to estimate how much you think you'll owe and to enter your total tax liability.
Who Uses Form 4868?
Form 4868 is for individual taxpayers, not corporations or other business entities that must file returns other than a Form 1040.
Some taxpayers receive an automatic extension without filing the form. You automatically get two extra months to file your return if you're a U.S. citizen living abroad. You can file Form 4868 for a further extension if you need more time than that.
Some victims of natural disasters and certain military members serving in combat zones also qualify for automatic extensions, but these are based on more complicated rules; check with a tax professional to find out whether your situation qualifies. For taxpayers in Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, and Mississippi who were affected by Hurricane Ida, the filing extension is through January 3, 2022.
You can get an extension even without filing this form if you pay at least some of what you expect to owe. The IRS indicates that it will automatically process an extension of time to file your return when you electronically pay part or all of what you anticipate owing through IRS Direct Pay or the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), or using a credit or debit card.
Where to Get Form 4868
You can access Form 4868 on the IRS website and complete it interactively online, then print it out and mail it in. You can also download the completed form and save a copy.
How to Fill Out Form 4868
IRS Form 4868 includes only nine lines or boxes, and the form comes with instructions, so completing it is relatively simple. Your identifying information goes in boxes 1, 2, and 3: your name, address, Social Security number, and your spouse's Social Security number if you're married and filing a joint return.
Box 4 asks you to estimate how much you think you'll owe the IRS when you complete your tax return. Box 5 cites how much you've paid so far. Subtract box 5 from box 4, and enter the result in box 6. That is how much you still owe. Tell the IRS in box 7 how much you want to pay when submitting the form.
Boxes 8 and 9 apply only if you're currently out of the country or if you'll be filing Form 1040-NR or Form 1040-NR-EZ. The IRS just wants you to confirm this information.
Can Form 4868 Be E-Filed?
You can use the IRS Free File website to e-file your application for an extension at no charge. Free File offers Fillable Forms, an online application that allows you to complete tax forms on the IRS website.
You can also use the IRS Free File service to file your federal return when you're ready. The only catch is that you must qualify to use it, and the criteria can vary, depending on the tax software provider you choose. Your 2020 income generally can't exceed $72,000, and some other criteria can apply as well.
You should be able to use tax software to file for an extension as well. Most reputable tax software applications offer this feature, and they offer the option to do so on the first screen you see when you log in. You'll probably find a link on the website if you're using a web app. These programs will e-file Form 4868 for you.
Filing for your extension with the software you already use to prepare your return keeps all of your tax data in one place.
Where to Mail Form 4868
Form 4868 includes a page dedicated to a list of addresses if you would prefer to snail-mail a copy of your extension request to the IRS. The address you'd use depends on your state and whether you're including a payment.
Requirements for Filing Form 4868
File the form with the IRS no later than April 15, the usual tax return due date. You don't have to give the IRS a reason for requesting an extension of time. Just fill out the form and file it. This deadline does not apply to taxpayers in natural disaster zones who qualify for automatic extensions granted as part of a federal relief package.
The IRS will only contact you after you've filed the form if your request is denied. The only reason that might happen is if you've missed the April 15 deadline. As the name of the form suggests, the extension is "automatic" if you submit it properly.
Keep in mind that just because you got an extension for filing, that doesn't mean you get an extension for paying the tax you owe. Anything that remains unpaid after the due date will be subject to late fees and penalties, so pay what you think you owe by that date, even if you'll be filing your tax return later.
The application to extend the filing date for a state tax return is a separate process and can vary among states.
- IRS Form 4868 is the “Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File.” It gives you an additional six months to get your tax return to the IRS.
- Tax payments are still due on April 15 in most years, or by May 17 in 2021, even if you get an extension of time to file your return (unless you are in a combat zone or natural disaster zone and subject to an automatic extension).
- You can avoid the necessity of filing Form 4868 if you make an electronic payment to the IRS for some or all of what you think you’ll owe. This, too, will give you an automatic extension of time to file.
- The form itself is short, comprising just a few boxes and lines, but it comes with four pages of instructions and helpful information.