Personal Tax Extensions: The Basics

If you are planning to request a tax extension for filing your personal income tax return, you should understand exactly what the process and requirements are. This article discusses the basics of getting a personal tax extension.

Some Considerations Before You Request a Personal Tax Extension

You can get a personal tax extension by using IRS Form 4868 and submitting it online or by paper mail. The IRS does not ask you to provide a reason for needing/wanting an extension, so don’t even worry about that!

One of the most important things to remember is that the tax extension application must be submitted by the original due date of your tax return (April 15 for most individuals). If you neglect to file either your tax return OR a tax extension application (Form 4868) by that date, you will face filing penalties from the IRS. Luckily, filing for a tax extension is easy and it can even be done online using an Authorized IRS e-file Provider.

It is also crucial to note that getting a tax extension doesn’t mean that you get more time to pay the tax you owe for the year. Your income tax liability must be paid by the same deadline of April 15, or else interest and late fees will accrue on your outstanding balance. You can pay your income tax with your extension application. While a payment is not required to have your extension approved, it is highly recommended.

You will be asked to give an estimate of your income tax liability for that year on your tax extension application, Form 4868. It’s not a huge deal if you cannot provide the exact amount, and the IRS recognizes that many people can only come up with a close estimate. Therefore, the IRS requires taxpayers to pay at least 90% of what is owed (before the late payment penalty is assessed).

When a Tax Extension Isn’t Necessary

Did you know? If you are owed a Federal tax refund, you aren’t required to submit a tax extension request. This is a situation where a tax extension is truly automatic. The IRS only charges a late filing penalty if you also have an outstanding tax liability. However, you will need to file an income tax return to receive your refund from the IRS.

The Documents You Need for a Tax Extension

IRS Form 4868 is the “Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.” To get a tax extension, you must complete this form and submit it to the IRS by April 15.

You don’t need any other tax documents on hand when you’re filing a tax extension. The only numbers you need to be familiar with are your estimated tax liability and the total amount of payments you made during the year (through Federal withholding and quarterly estimated payments). If your tax situation is similar to the previous year (i.e., same income and same tax rate) you can simply assume the same numbers that you reported before.

The Procedure for Requesting a Tax Extension

Form 4868 can be filed electronically, using an Authorized IRS e-file Provider like or by paper mail.

When filling out the tax extension application, you will be asked to provide a few personal details — including your name, address, and Social Security Number (as well as your spouse’s, if married filing jointly). Then you’ll need to give an estimate of your income tax liability and also report any payments you made throughout the year. From those last two amounts, you will calculate your balance due and then declare how much you are paying now with the tax extension form.

Once you submit Form 4868, you can assume that your extension has been approved unless you receive a notice from the IRS. For paper filers, the IRS will only notify you if your request has been denied. However, if you e-file Form 4868 online using, you will get a confirmation email as soon as the IRS approves your request. No waiting around and wondering! Our customers can also login to check the status of their tax extension any time of day.

If you have any questions, we are here to help! Feel free to contact our friendly support team.

To request a business tax extension, use IRS Form 7004 instead and visit the Business Tax Extension Center.

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