Although April 15 is the annual deadline for filing the previous year's tax return, the Internal Revenue Service allows taxpayers to request an extension to file. Normally the request is granted but under certain circumstances the agency will insist on a timely filing.
Normal procedure if you are unable to make the filing deadline of April 15 is to file Form 4868, a one-page request for an automatic extension. If granted, this request results in a maximum six-month extension -- until Oct. 15 -- to get the tax return to the Internal Revenue Service. The extension does not relieve the taxpayer of making a timely payment of any taxes due -- that deadline remains April 15. If the payment is made after April 15 or with the late return, the IRS may apply interest and penalties.
When the IRS takes a taxpayer to court for failure to pay back taxes or some other issue, the court may order the defendant to file future tax returns by the April 15 deadline. In these cases, the IRS will deny the request for an automatic extension.
Figuring Your Tax
The IRS normally allows you to request that the agency figure your tax and send you a bill for the balance due, if any. However, if you file for an automatic extension, you cannot ask the IRS to figure your tax. In these cases the IRS will deny your request for an extension. You must complete the return and do all the calculations yourself if you have requested an extension.
If a taxpayer falls behind on tax payments and requests an installment agreement with the IRS, then the agency requires that returns be filed and taxes paid on time as long as the installment agreement is in effect. Normally, the agency will not deny an automatic extension under these circumstances, but it will insist that the taxpayer pay all taxes due with the filed return. If there is any shortfall in the payment, then the IRS will cancel the installment agreement and immediate send a Notice of Intent to Levy, allowing it to garnish the taxpayer's wages or bank accounts after 30 days.
The IRS will not grant any further extensions to taxpayers who need more time after the six-month deadline. However, the agency does make exceptions for taxpayers living outside the United States. These foreign-residing taxpayers must send a letter of explanation to the IRS and detail the reasons they need the additional time. The IRS will grant the additional extension if the taxpayer needs to meet a bona fide residency test, the residency requirements for the foreign earned income exclusion, or to qualify for the foreign housing deduction or exclusion.
Founder/president of the innovative reference publisher The Archive LLC, Tom Streissguth has been a self-employed business owner, independent bookseller and freelance author in the school/library market. Holding a bachelor's degree from Yale, Streissguth has published more than 100 works of history, biography, current affairs and geography for young readers.