April 15 is the day by which taxpayers annually must square their tab with Uncle Sam. If you've been too busy (or forgetful, lazy or broke) to gather up your receipts and tax forms, you can buy up to six months of leeway by filing for an extension. The caveat here is that if you owe money to the IRS, you must estimate your tax liability for the year and send it on or before April 15. If you don't, you will be subject to interest and penalties on top of what you owe. If you are expecting a refund, all you need to do is complete the form and mail it in, then file your tax return by Oct. 15.
Determine your tax liability for the year. The extension does not grant you permission to delay paying your tax liability; it only postpones your filing deadline. The IRS does not require that you pay your tax liability by April 15, but you should do so if you want to avoid interest and penalties. The interest accumulates until you pay your taxes.
Get a copy of Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. Download the form from IRS.gov if you want to file a paper form, or e-file using your own tax software or tax adviser. You may also get the extension by paying all or part of your estimated income tax on a credit card or debit card using the phone or Internet.
Enter your total estimated tax liability on Line 4 of Form 4868, then mail or e-file the form by the tax deadline. If the deadline falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the IRS usually grants an extra two days to file.
Elle Smith has been an advertising professional for more than 25 years. Her work for ABC, CBS and Sony Pictures Television has appeared on radio, on air, in print and outdoors. In addition, Smith has more than 20 years experience in marketing, graphic arts, commercial photography and print production, and is a licensed real estate agent with property management certification in California.