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How to File for a Tax Extension

Filing a tax extension won’t give you more time to pay taxes that you owe, but it will give you more time to get your paperwork together before you submit your paperwork. It’s not difficult and may even slightly reduce your risk of an audit.

How to File for a Tax ExtensionTaxes are due in just a week (April 15th). Do you need to request an extension to file your federal income tax return? Filing an individual federal tax extension is easy if you know what you’re doing.

Filing a tax extension gives you an additional six months (until October 15th) to file your federal tax return. It does not, however, give you additional time to pay any taxes you owe (they’re still due on April 15th). If you owe taxes but still need to file an extension, you should pay the IRS your best guess of what you owe them by April 15th to minimize any penalties and interest you’ll owe.

If you can’t pay your full tax bill, you can request a payment plan from the IRS.

How to File for a Tax Extension

To file for a tax extension, simply complete IRS Form 4868 and mail it to the IRS before April 15th. You can read more about filing for an extension at the IRS site.

Why File a Tax Extension?

If you have all of your tax documents in order and expect to get a refund from the IRS, you generally should not file a tax extension. File by the deadline and get your money back! Filing for a tax extension may be appropriate, however, if:

  • You are missing important tax documents such as W-2s or 1099s
  • You have unanswered tax questions that could make a big difference in how much you owe
  • You want to reduce your risk of an audit

That last one may take you by surprise, but there is some evidence that filing your tax return as late as possible may reduce your risk of an audit, at least slightly. This is especially true for small businesses and anybody who files a schedule C (including freelancers), as these groups are typically more at risk for an audit to begin with.

Published or updated on April 9, 2009

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About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.


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  1. Chad Smith says:

    You’ll also need a Form D-410 if doing it in North Carolina. Our resident CPA added some advice about extensions.

  2. Speak Your Mind