For many of us, there just doesn’t seem to be a convenient time to gather all of our tax documents and sit down to prepare a return. And, before we know it, the tax filing deadline is upon us.
That’s when filing a tax extension using Form 4868, Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Tax Return, may be a good idea.
It becomes an even better idea if you don’t have all of your tax information.
If you are waiting for a partnership or other organization to send out forms, or an illness or other emergency is preventing you from completing your return, filing an extension may be your only choice.
Below are seven frequently asked questions about tax extensions.
Can anyone get an automatic extension?
Fortunately, you can always get an extension to file your return. Some people apply for an extension every year. It doesn’t matter how much income you earn or what your filing status is. You also don’t have to give any explanation to the IRS as to why you need an extension. Here are 5 good reasons to file a tax extension.
Are there special rules if I’m in the military?
For those in the armed forces, an automatic extension is given to you if you served in a combat zone or were stationed abroad during tax filing season. If you qualify for that extension, it typically means you get an additional 180 days to file and pay any federal income taxes owed.
If you are hospitalized for injuries from service in the combat zone or other service, you have 180 days from the time you are released from continuous qualified hospitalization to file.
The 180 days are in addition to the time you already had to file your return when you first entered a combat zone. For example, say you entered a combat zone on March 1, you would have the 49 days originally left before the April 18 (2016) tax filing deadline, plus the extra 180 days. This gives you 229 days to file your tax return.
How do I get a six-month extension?
To apply for an extension you can use TaxAct to prepare Form 4868. Simply follow the Q&A steps, using estimates as necessary, to complete the form.
If you’ve already started your return, go directly to the section for filing an extension. Click the Filing main tab, and then click the File Extension tab.
You can print and mail Form 4868, or choose to e-file it. Don’t forget to make a payment with your extension if you owe income tax.
How do I get an extension for my state tax return?
Some states automatically extend your deadline when you apply for a federal extension. Others require you to file separately for a state extension. Check with your state to be sure you avoid any penalties for late filing.
Does getting an extension give me more time to pay my taxes?
Filing an extension does not give you more time to pay your taxes.
If you think you will owe tax, you should make a payment with your extension application to avoid interest and penalties.
How do I know how much tax to pay with my extension?
One problem with not having all your tax information and needing to file an extension is you still have to calculate out how much tax you owe. And to do that, you need to complete your return as best you can. Use estimates for information you don’t have yet. That’s better than leaving the information out altogether.
If you are using TaxAct, be sure to click Mark as Estimate for any information you need to double check before you officially file your return.
What’s wrong with filing for an extension if I know I’m getting a refund?
Even if you know you’ll get a refund, you should still file your tax return as soon as possible. Filing your taxes doesn’t get any easier as time goes on, and you may risk forgetting important details about the tax year if it’s not fresh in your mind.
Perhaps the most important reason to file sooner rather than later is because you have limited time to file your return and receive a refund. Generally, you have three years from the due date of the return to file and still receive a check from the IRS.