How to File a Tax Extension in 2020Income Taxes
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Did you have every good intention of filing your taxes early this year, but life (or procrastination) got in the way?
Or are you waiting on a tax form like a K-1 or a 1099 that you probably won’t receive until after April 15?
If so, you’re probably vaguely aware that you need to file a tax extension.
But what exactly does a tax extension do, and how do you actually get one? That’s what we’re getting into today.
What Is a Tax Extension?
Every year, I run into people who are confused on what a tax extension does and what it doesn’t, so here are the basics.
A tax extension is an extension of time to file your tax return.
A tax extension is a request you make to the IRS to give you an additional six months to file your federal tax return.
So if your tax return is normally due on April 15, filing an extension would extend the due date to October 15.
Note that while your extension form is technically a “request” for an extension, it’s a request that the IRS automatically grants without notice.
So as long as you’ve successfully filed your extension, you’re good to go. You don’t need to sit around waiting for a letter from the IRS letting you know that your tax return has been extended.
A tax extension is not an extension of time to pay your taxes.
Extension or not, you still have to pay all the taxes you owe by April 15.
Remember, your tax extension is simply an extension of time to file your tax return, not an extension of time to pay your taxes.
So run your estimated numbers through your tax software to see an estimate of what you still owe (taking into account estimated tax payments you’ve made) and make sure you pay this amount by April 15.
Note, though, that even if you don’t pay your taxes by April 15, the IRS will still grant your extension, but it may assess penalties and interest for not paying.
How to File a Tax Extension
As with most tax forms, you can either file your extension online — and there are two ways to file online — or via mail.
Option 1: File your extension using your tax software.
Chances are, your tax software can file your extension for free.
This is by far the easiest option because tax software programs are made to be intuitive and as easy as possible for you to utilize.
Option 2: File your extension using IRS Free File.
Not sure which tax software you want to use yet?
No problem — the IRS has you covered.
Mosey on over to IRS Free File to file your extension there.
Option 3: Mail in your extension.
Maybe you’re more of the pen-and-paper type and want to mail in your tax extension rather than file it online.
That’s perfectly fine, but keep in mind the cons:
- You’re entrusting your income tax compliance to the United States Postal Service.
- You’ll have to pay for postage.
But if you still want to file your extension the old-fashioned way, here’s what you have to do:
- Download, print, and complete Form 4868.
- If you owe taxes, write a check to “United States Treasury” in the amount of your outstanding tax liability and write your social security number, daytime phone number, and “2019 Form 4868” in the memo line.
- Mail the completed form and (if applicable) check to the appropriate address in the table below. I would recommend going to the post office and send it out as certified mail so the IRS can’t come back and claim that they never received your extension form.
|If You Live In:||And You're Making a Payment, Mail To:||And You're Not Making a Payment, Mail To:|
|Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina||P.O. Box 1302 Charlotte, NC 28201-1302||Kansas City, MO 64999-0045|
|Alaska, California, Hawaii, Washington||P.O. Box 7122 San Francisco, CA 94120-7122||Fresno, CA 93888-0045|
|Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming||P.O. Box 802503 Cincinnati, OH 45280-2503||Ogden, UT 84201-0045|
|Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia||P.O. Box 931300 Louisville, KY 40293-1300||Kansas City, MO 64999-0045|
|Connecticut, District of Columbia, Maryland, Rhode Island, West Virginia||P.O. Box 931300 Louisville, KY 40293-1300||Ogden, UT 84201-0045|
|Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont||P.O. Box 37009 Hartford, CT 06176-7009||Kansas City, MO 64999-0045|
|Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas||P.O. Box 1302 Charlotte, NC 28201-1302||Austin, TX 73301-0045|
|Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin||P.O. Box 802503 Cincinnati, OH 45280-2503||Fresno, CA 93888-0045|
|Pennsylvania||P.O. Box 37009 Hartford, CT 06176-7009||Ogden, UT 84201-0045|
|A foreign country, American Samoa, or Puerto Rico||P.O. Box 1302 Charlotte, NC 28201-1302 USA||Austin, TX 73301-0215|
|All foreign estate and trust Form 1040-NR filers||P.O. Box 1303 Charlotte, NC 28201-1303 USA||Kansas City, MO 64999-0045 USA|
|All other Form 1040-NR, 1040-NR-EZ, 1040-PR, and 1040-SS filers||P.O. Box 1302 Charlotte, NC 28201-1302 USA||Austin, TX 73301-0045 USA|
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is it free to file a tax extension?
Yes, it is free to file a tax extension. However, if you still owe taxes for the year to the IRS (or your state or local government), you should make a payment with your extension in that amount. That said, not paying your taxes will not cause your extension to be rejected.
- What is the deadline to file a tax extension?
Form 1040 filers must file a tax extension on or before April 15, which is the original due date of their return.
- If I file an extension, what is my tax return deadline?
If you file an extension by April 15, your tax return deadline is extended for six months until October 15. Keep in mind that if either of these days fall on a holiday or weekend, the due date is the next business day after the fifteenth.
Logan is a practicing CPA, Certified Student Loan Professional, and founder of Money Done Right, which he launched in July 2017. After spending nearly a decade in the corporate world helping big businesses save money, he launched his blog with the goal of helping everyday Americans earn, save, and invest more money. Learn more about Logan.