How do I File a Tax Extension?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 11 February 2020
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Each U.S. state has its own tax system. To determine how to file a tax extension for state returns, you should contact the appropriate taxation department. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) outlines the procedures for filing federal extensions. According to this bureau, if you are in the U.S., you need to file Form 4868 by the tax due date to receive additional time. If you are outside of the U.S., you must file a statement of qualification for an extension.

Individuals who cannot file their taxes on time are generally required to file Form 4868, also known as the Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. If you are filing late and you pay your taxes according to the normal tax year, you will need to submit this form by April 15. Otherwise, the date that you need to submit the form will depend on the ending of your fiscal year.

There are two ways that you can file Form 4868. You can mail a paper form to the IRS or you can file it electronically. If you plan to file a tax extension and you believe that you will owe taxes, there is worksheet that you should use to estimate your bill. Realize that payments need to be made when you submit your extension application. The IRS makes it clear that an extension to file taxes is not an extension to pay your tax bill.


When you submit your application electronically, you can pay with a credit or debit card. If you file a tax extension using a paper form, you can send a check or money order. If you cannot pay your entire estimated bill, it is advisable to send as much of the amount due as you can. Once the extension application is received, you should have six months to file your taxes.

If you are outside of the U.S. and you need to file a tax extension, different rules apply. You can automatically receive a two-month grace period on filing and paying if you are outside of the country and the majority of your business is conducted abroad or if you are a member of the military and are stationed abroad. Be aware, however, that although you may be permitted to pay late, interest may be added. To qualify for this type of extension, you must attach a statement to your income tax return when you file explaining why you qualified for this grace period.

If you need more than two months, you can file Form 4868 and receive another four-month extension. Note that this additional time is only an extension to file. You are required to pay at the end of the two-month period.



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