Extension Filing Instructions
Filing an extension is easy, and will take most people 30 minutes or less. There are e-filing options, and if you've already started your return with tax software, you can probably do an extension for free from within the software.
If you're not using software that offers free extensions, you can still easily file an extension for free. Unfortunately, the IRS does not offer e-filing of extensions directly, and instead relies on private companies to supply this service. As a result, there are too many e-filing options for any rational person to sift through, so paper-filing is generally much simpler and easier (and free except for the stamp). The only drawback is you'll have to mail a check if you're making a payment. With that caveat, here's how to file an extension in 10 very simple steps: (OK, one or two aren't "very simple," but we promise they're not bad.)
- First, print out Form 4868 with instructions.
- Cut off the Form 4868 at the bottom of page 1.
- Fill in Lines 1-3 with your name, address, and Social Security Number(s).
- Estimate your tax liability in Line 4. OK, this one can be tricky. We recommend TaxCaster from TurboTax as a pretty user-friendly tool for doing this. Alternately, you can base your estimate on last year's tax return. When all else fails, there's no penalty for making a wild guess and being way wrong. (Although there is a penalty for underpayment, so guess high.)
- Enter your tax payments you've already made for the year in Line 5. For most people, this means add up the amount in Box 2 of all W2's you received. This may underestimate your payments, but it's a reasonable start.
- Subtract Line 4 from Line 5 and enter it in Line 6...just like it says on the form :-)
- Enter any amount you're paying on Line 7. This is optional. You don't have to include a payment.
- Check the boxes on lines 8 & 9 if they apply to you. (Line 9 only applies to non-US citizens.)
- Put the form, along with a check if you're making a payment, in an envelope. Use this table to determine which address to use (based on your state of residence and whether you're making a payment).
- Put a stamp on that envelope, seal it, and drop it in the mail.
You're done. You now have until mid-October to file your return without any late filing penalties.