How To File For A Tax Extension

Tax prep.

More than 10 million people file for an automatic extension of the time to prepare their federal tax return each year.  Are you going to be one of those people this year?  I am.  In fact, I’ve filed for an extension for the last handful of years.  Busy lives and complicated tax situations are just two of the reasons why you might want some extra time to finish those tax forms.

It’s Easy

There are a variety of ways to file for an automatic extension of time to file a federal income tax return.  The most basic way is to use the paper Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.   This form asks for a few basic pieces of information, and includes very detailed instructions including where to mail your form.  It also includes information for making an estimated payment on your taxes.  This extension does NOT extend your time to pay, so make your best guesstimate of your taxes due, round the amount up a little bit, and send in that payment if your calculations show that you will owe money to the IRS.

If you file your income tax return online, you can file for an extension to pay via the program you use to file your tax return.  Military One Source offers free access to H&R Block’s tax preparation software, which should allow you to file an extension.  You can also use other free online software such as TurboTax.

It’s Free

Don’t be taken in by websites that offer to file for your tax extension for a fee.  There’s no reason to pay for this service.  Save your money and run from anyone who offers to file for an extension but requires you to pay a fee for the service.

What If You’re Overseas?

If you are stationed overseas, or you have been deployed to a Combat Zone Tax Exempt (CZTE) area, you automatically have some extra time to get your paperwork together and pay your taxes.

If you are posted to an overseas location, you automatically get an extra two months to file and pay your taxes due.  No paperwork necessary!  You will accrue interest from the time of the original due date, 15 April in most cases, to the date when you actually pay.

If you have recently been in a CZTE (or you serve(d) in the Armed Forces on deployment outside the United States away from your permanent duty station while participating in a contingency operation), your filing deadline is extended by 180 from the date you left the combat zone (or stopped serving in a contingency operation), plus the number of days that were left between the day you entered the CZTE (or began serving in a contingency operation) and when your tax return is was due.  For example, if you entered the CZTE on 1 April, your return would be due 180 days plus 15 days (1 April to the 15 April due date) after you left the CZTE.

 These extensions automatically apply to the spouses of those affected, if they file their tax returns using the married filing jointly status.

What About The State Returns?

Each state has their own rules about extensions for state tax returns.  Many states don’t even have the same 15 April deadline as federal income tax returns.  You will have to check with your individual state to see the rules for filing for an extension, and if any special situation applies to you.
Filing for an automatic extension of time to prepare your federal income tax return is easy and free.  Be sure to pay the amount you estimate that will be due with your extension request.  You’ll have a little more time to get your paperwork together, and you won’t have any penalties for a later return.


About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • Teri

    It’s completely normal to need a tax extension come April. Not everyone has the money in the bank to pay their taxes and there ways to help your financial situation. Take the time to look at and see if they can help.