So it’s the last minute, and despite all your effort, you’re not going to make the annual April 15 tax deadline to get your income tax filings mailed. Are you in trouble? Not yet. The IRS allows tax filers to request a six-month extension on filing their taxes and the request, if filed correctly and on time, gets approved automatically.
There’s a couple of things you need to decide first, however, before seeking an extension. If the delay issue is due to your being unable to pay taxes due rather than get your paperwork done timely, don’t use the extension process. Instead, file your paperwork on time and get it mailed in. Pay what you are able to pay. The difference will get invoiced by the IRS to you after the fact. This approach meets the filing deadline and avoids a non-filing status. The IRS’ invoice will specify your balance still due and how to pay it. You can then manage the bill either online or pay it by mail. If you need further time to come up with the funds, you can request a payment agreement with the IRS, which will allow you to pay the bill over time in installments.
Payment agreement applications can be obtained on the Internet at the IRS’ website www.IRS.gov under the link “Apply for an Online Payment Agreement (OPA)”. The IRS is also available by phone to spell out your available options for payment in such cases by calling 800-829-1040.
It’s important to understand that a filing extension gives you more time to get your paperwork into the IRS, but it doesn’t extend when taxes are due. As a result, interest begins to accrue on the owed amount after the original payment deadline passed. So if you owe an amount on April 15, you will then owe that balance plus interest for the number of days afterwards it takes to make full payment. In some cases, penalties may apply as well.
You can make a formal application to the IRS for an extension by using IRS Form 4868 – Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. The extension needs to be filed and in the mail to the IRS by the date of your original tax filing deadline (i.e. April 15 for most people unless it falls on a weekend or federal holiday, then it is the next business day).
Extensions, like original tax filings, can be made electronically, so you don’t have to wait for the regular mail and stress whether the IRS received your request. Most major brand tax software includes the extension filing option and necessary forms. Once filled out, these are then uploaded via the Internet to the IRS’ computers. The IRS will send a receipt once it receives the file, confirming the agency received your extension request. If you don’t have the software, you can still file electronically using the IRS’ Free File option available on the agency’s website.
Payments can also be made quickly as well. You can choose to have the specific payment amount withdrawn from your bank account electronically by submitting the necessary information on the IRS website or by phone at 800-TAX-1040 (800-829-1040).
The IRS Form 4868 and related instructions can be downloaded via the Internet from the IRS’ website, www.IRS.gov, or by requesting a hardcopy be mailed by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676). Allow for about two weeks if requesting by mail and don’t use this option if you need the form at the last second. You would be better off to go to a public library with free computer access and print out the form their or getting one in person at your local IRS office.
IRS Form 4868, Application for Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return
IRS Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request
IRS Publication 54, Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad