Few Americans enjoy filing their income taxes. And many taxpayers find themselves filing at the last minute for a variety of reasons. But what if you feel you need more time to file? Are there legitimate reasons to delay your tax filing even longer? And how can you do so? Here are a few answers to ease your mind.
Why Request an Extension?
The IRS does grant extensions of time to file, so you have the option if you need to use it. However, this is not an extension of time to pay. Why, then, would you need to extend your time to file the forms themselves even if you don't get more time to pay the bill? Here are the four most common reasons.
- Some Forms Haven't Arrived. Certain informational forms, such as those for retirement account contributions, may not arrive before the April due date. This would be true for any tax-advantaged account that allows you to contribute money through April of the following year.
- You're Away From Records. Not everyone is home with their forms to complete their taxes in April. You might be traveling, serving in the military, or even doing secular work outside the country. Even if you could have filed early, the IRS does grant extensions if you're out of the area when the deadline comes around.
- You Had an Emergency. Natural disasters don't respect deadlines and due dates. If you suffered from a catastrophic emergency — flooding, hurricane, fire, tornado, etc — or a personal emergency (such as fleeing domestic violence) you may have to reconstruct records in order to file.
- You Need to Get Help. Some taxpayers who wait until the last minute find that their taxes can't actually be finalized with the information on hand. Their situation may need further research, assistance from the IRS, or a paid professional's help. You can request an extension right up until the midnight deadline if this happens to you.
Clearly, there is no shame in requesting an extension. It may save your sanity if you find yourself battle against time to get your taxes done.
How Should You Request an Extension?
You can ask for a simple six-month extension by filing Form 4868. This works well particularly if you expect a refund and won't suffer any penalties for late payment. Alternatively, you can also pay at least the expected amount due through the IRS website's payment services and specify that it is in lieu of an extension.
If you're having trouble filing your income taxes through your current provider or on your own, seek out a professional tax preparation service. The sooner you get the help you need, the earlier you can file and the lower your risk of penalties or interest will be. And then you can leave this tax return filing task behind until next year.