At WiseGEEK, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.
Getting an extension on a tax return from the US Internal Revenue Service is a fairly painless process and simply involves, in most cases, which form you must file. There are a couple of things you should know about filing an extension, especially if you estimate that you are going to owe taxes. An extension does not guarantee that you won't be charged fees or interest on taxes owed, unless you have a plan worked out with the IRS.
For personal taxes, you can get an extension on a tax return by filing IRS Form 4868, also called an Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File US Income Tax Return. Such an extension will cover you if you are filing by yourself, or it will give you and your spouse an extension on a tax return if you're married and filing jointly. If you're married and filing separately, you may each need to fill out a Form 4868.
Form 4868 needs to be filed by the deadline for income taxes, usually 15 April for individual tax returns. It will offer you a six-month extension on filing for your taxes, though there are some exceptions. If you are out of the country when your tax return would be due, on October 15th, you may be able to qualify for an additional two months to file your taxes, and have until December 15th to file your return. If you are in the US military and are serving in an active combat zone, or hospitalized as a result of injury sustained in a combat zone, you usually have an automatic 180 day extension on a tax return that begins either the day you leave the combat zone or the day you leave the hospital. For more information on this, read the IRS Publication 3, called the Armed Forces' Tax Guide.
You can also get an extension on a tax return if you are filing returns for corporations, trusts, or partnerships. In order to get this extension, you must file Form 7004. This will again extend time you have to file your taxes for six months. The only difference between this form and Form 4868 is that the extension time begins at the end of your fiscal year. Some companies may not have the same tax year that individuals have. Again, the form should be filed by the last date of your fiscal year.
A few other forms may give you an extension on a tax return if you have special tax circumstances. For instance, if you need extra time to pay estate taxes, you can apply for extensions. Check with the IRS or your accountant to see if you qualify for an extension on a tax return based on your special circumstances.
As noted, most extensions will ask you to estimate tax you owe, if you think you owe any. If you do not make an arrangement with the IRS to start repaying taxes, expect to pay late fees. Also expect that the IRS will start charging you interest on any money you do owe when you file your taxes, if you cannot immediately pay for them. It is a good idea, if you haven't filed your return, to make a repayment arrangement with the IRS. At minimum, start making payments to the IRS if you know you will owe taxes when you eventually file your return. These payments can then be deducted from the amount you owe at the time of filing.