You’re not going to make it. You had grand plans to file your taxes this year way ahead of the rush — you even got all those discount emails from several tax filing firms — but life just got in the way. Somewhere between all the weekend shopping and errands and straight exhaustion from work, you just never got around to it. So now the question is: how do I file for a tax extension?
But wait, is that even the best option for you? The only thing you know is you’re not going to hit that mid-April deadline, so what’s your best move? We break it down for you, but breathe easy. You have options.
Filing for an extension: Is it bad, and is there a penalty?
We’ll cut to the chase here about filing for an extension: No, it’s not bad — as long as you do it on time. Filing for an extension on your taxes needs to be done at the same time as everyone else is turning in their actual taxes, which means now. You’ll need to have all the paperwork filled out electronically — or filled out and mailed in — by the deadline, which varies from year to year. In 2018, that’s Tuesday, April 17.
As long as your paperwork is completed and turned in by that date — if you mailed it, it needs to have arrived by this time, so the post mark needs to be a couple days earlier — you won’t be fined for filing for an extension. You’ll get a penalty if you miss both of these deadlines, though.
Here’s the thing that you need to remember when filing for an extension, though: The IRS is all about that money. You need to not only file for an extension on your tax forms but also pay them an estimation of what you probably owe on your taxes. Again: The IRS expects you to pay an approximation of your taxes even if you’re filing for an extension.
You’ll get slapped with one of two penalties if you don’t file both of these, depending on which you fail to do. The two types of penalties the IRS can leverage against you are: the failure-to-file penalty and the failure-to-pay penalty, which is pretty self-explanatory. “The failure-to-file penalty is generally more than the failure-to-pay penalty,” the IRS writes on its own website, so at least make sure you get those forms filled out on time. Now that you're motivated and asking, how do I file for a tax extension, we'll break it down.
So, how do I file for a tax extension?
Unfortunately, if you’re looking to file for a tax extension for 2018, mailing in your paperwork is probably not a possibility unless you’re willing to pay for expedited shipping. But why worry about that or pay the extra mailing costs when filing for an extension can be done online?
So, how do I file for a tax extension, anyway? Filing for an extension is simple: Use the Free File link on the IRS website. This free service will make it easy for you to fill out Form 4868, the request form for an automatic tax filing extension. Simply select the paperwork for over or under $66,000 based on your annual income.
You can also request a tax extension through a paid tax preparation service, like H&R Block, or through electronic filing software such as TurboTax. In the former case, the representative will guide you through the paperwork needed, and in the second, the software should give you step-by-step instructions for filing for an extension, and may help make paying an estimation of your taxes easier.
If you file for a tax extension, your tax filing deadline will be October 15 — but your estimated taxes, again, are still due on Tax Day.
Does everyone need to file for an extension?
Actually, no. Some groups of U.S. citizen are automatically given more time to file their taxes without asking for it or filling out paperwork. Members of the military, American citizens living and working abroad and people affected by storms such as tornadoes and hurricanes get more leeway in filing to various degrees. Check the IRS website here for details about each of these groups and their deadlines for filing taxes.