Can You E-File Your Taxes Late?

What Is E-file?

The IRS initiated an electronic tax filing initiative in 1986, and that has blossomed into the current federal e-file program. You can e-file as an alternative to filing your taxes on paper through the postal system. The e-file system instead relies on the Internet and electronic forms. Nearly 99 million American taxpayers e-filed in 2009. Of them, roughly one-third e-filed at home from their personal computers.

How to E-file

You can either e-file through a certified paid tax preparer, or you can e-file on your own from your home computer. The IRS requires that registered tax professionals learn and offer the e-file system, so it is widely supported. Similarly, most home computer tax preparation software now offers an e-file option. Your tax software converts the return into an acceptable format and then sends it to the IRS over the Internet. The IRS responds after its system has assessed your filing and either accepted or rejected it. The response to you is relayed either through your tax software or a website offered by the software vendor or a third-party.

E-file for Extensions

The e-file request for an extension is a very common form. As of 2001, you can file a Form 4868 extension via e-file. The IRS will send you a confirmation number by email, indicating receipt of your extension. If you are not going to have your return ready by the filing deadline, you should definitely e-file Form 4868 to buy some additional time.

Too Late to E-file

If your e-file return is not accepted, the transmitter you used for the e-file process should provide you with support to correct and resubmit your return. The IRS will typically accept retransmissions for rejected Form 1040s up until April 20 and still consider them as timely filed. You can file a return under a standard Form 4868 extension until October 15 of the same year. Many e-file transmitters will provide service until October 20 for retransmissions. After October 20, you will need to file your return by mail. There is no other option. You should contact the IRS, your professional tax preparer or customer support for your tax software if you have specific questions about the process.