Whether you ran out of time, don't have money to pay right now or simply find your tax situation too complicated to resolve by April 15, you have a legitimate opportunity to extend your tax deadline. But an extension does not count as a "get out of tax free" card. You'll still have to pay your taxes, but you can delay the pain for a small fee.
Basic Tax Filing Rules
The Internal Revenue Service allows taxpayers 3 1/2 months after the work year ends to file their tax returns for that year. Your annual tax accounting, and any tax owed, must be postmarked or electronically filed by April 15 each year. If April 15 falls on a Saturday, Sunday or federal holiday, the deadline is extended until the next weekday.
Extensions of Time to File
If you are a U.S. citizen or resident alien and you are out of the country on the filing deadline, you receive an automatic two-month extension to file. This means you have until June 15 to file your taxes, and you don't need to file an extension request. If you are in the military and stationed in a combat zone, you are allowed even more time. If you are in the country and simply need additional time to file, you can fill out an IRS Form 4868, mail or electronically submit it by the tax filing deadline and get an automatic six-month extension. Your tax return is then due on Oct. 15. The same weekend and holiday rule applies to extensions as to the regular filing deadline.
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Extensions of Time to Pay
An extension of time to file is not an extension of time to pay. If you owe taxes and do not pay them by April 15, you might be penalized. The penalty may be waived if you paid at least 90 percent of what you currently owe during the year or if during the year you paid the same amount or more than you paid the year before. You can avoid a penalty by estimating the amount you owe and including it with your extension form.
If you do not file an extension form, or if you fail to file your return by the extension deadline, you will be penalized. If you do not pay on time, you will receive a penalty. Penalties vary somewhat depending on the situation and can be as small as 0.5 percent of the amount owed each month the taxes aren't paid. Penalties can also be large: In some cases, you may have to pay an additional amount equivalent to 100 percent of the value of tax owed. You can significantly reduce penalties if you arrange to pay your taxes on an installment plan.
State Tax Extensions
Filing an extension at the federal level does not necessarily mean you'll get an extension of time to file your state taxes. Each state is different, so verify your state rules to ensure that you qualify for additional time to file.