How to File a Tax Extension (The Steps You Need to Know)

Filing for a tax extension can be a daunting task. It is harder if you aren’t using a CPA to file your taxes. When you find yourself unable to file your taxes by the deadline, there is no need to panic. You can file for a tax extension, which will give you more time to file. We’re going to make sure you know how to file a tax extension so you don’t miss the deadlines.

Man checking time on filing tax extension.

Why You Might Need a Tax Extension

Too lazy to file your taxes on time? That’s not an excuse for the IRS. To file a tax extension, it needs to come with a good reason. This doesn’t just apply to federal taxes but state taxes as well. Some of the most common reasons for a tax extension include-

  • Not having your partnership activity in time
  • You might not have all your wages in time
  • Investment statements are still outstanding
  • You are waiting on a taxpayer identification number

With some of the common reasons outlined, let’s get into the steps you need to know to file a tax extension.

Step 1: Knowing the Tax Extension Deadline

The first question you should ask yourself is, “Can I meet the deadline for my tax return?”  If you can meet it then you won’t even need to extend. The deadline for tax returns is April 18th. That said, if you don’t think you’ll be ready in time with all your documents then you should extend before the deadline. 

Before you begin the process of filing for a tax extension, it is important to understand the tax extension deadline. The deadline to file for a tax extension is the same as the deadline to file your taxes. This means that you must file for a tax extension by the tax deadline. What happens if you run over the deadline but don’t extend? That’s when penalties can come into play.

Step 2: Getting All Your Information for Your Taxes

Once you have a clear understanding of the tax extension deadline and know you can’t meet it, you’ll still need to get some information in order. To file for a tax extension, you will need to provide your personal information, such as your name and Social Security number, as well as information about your income and taxes owed.

Just because you are extending the time to file your taxes, doesn’t mean you are extending the time to pay your taxes. This is critical to know. If you don’t know how much taxes you need to pay upon extension, you should estimate. 

Read More:

What is a Form 1099? Everything You Want and Need to Know

Step 3: Choosing How to Extend Your Taxes

Filling out form 4868 on a laptop for a tax extension.

The easiest way to extend your taxes is to ask your CPA to take care of it. They will still have to use one of the same two methods that you would: online or by mail. The easiest and most convenient way to file for a tax extension is online. Most tax software will even guide you through the process of making an extension.

If you aren’t using a popular tax software then the IRS offers an online form that you can fill out and submit electronically. If you prefer to file by mail, you can download Form 4868 from the IRS website. You’d fill out the form and send it via mail to the address provided on the form.

Step 4: Fill Out The Extension Form

Filling out form 4868 is pretty straightforward. It asks for your basic information and estimated tax liability. 

Make sure you actually need an extension and just aren’t putting off your taxes because you will need to provide an explanation of why you need the extension on the form.

Step 5: Submitting Your Extension Form

Once you have filled out Form 4868, you can submit it either online or by mail. If you choose to file online, you’ll receive an acknowledgment of your submission. 

Read More:

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Step 6: Paying Your Estimated Taxes

As we mentioned before, filing for a tax extension does not mean that you can delay paying your taxes. If you owe taxes, you are still required to pay them by the tax deadline. Not paying your taxes on time can result in penalties and interest on any unpaid balance Something no one wants!

Don’t believe the common myth that you can defer tax payment if you file an extension. It’s not true.

How to File a Tax Extension: Wrapping Up & Recapping

That’s it! If you ever find yourself in a situation where the tax deadline is approaching and you need to extend your return, follow the six-step process above. That’s provided you don’t have a great CPA who can extend your return for you. If you end up extending your own return, it might even have you thinking twice about using a CPA in the future. They are worth it!

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