IRS Announces Extensions May Be Filed By Telephone
The following article is provided courtesy of CCH, Inc. 
The IRS has announced that taxpayers seeking extensions for filing their returns can automatically extend their filing deadline four months by phone, computer or by filing a Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, by the April 16 filing deadline. The announcement, made in IR-2001-37, states that taxpayers receiving extensions may pay projected taxes due electronically; however, payment is not required to obtain an extension. The IRS indicated that it expects eight million extension requests in 2001.
On April 1, the IRS plans to open a toll-free phone line for extension requests (1-888-796-1074). Callers have been directed to complete Form 4868 and use it as a worksheet in preparation for the call; they must also have a copy of their 1999 tax return. To verify the caller's identity, adjusted gross income and total tax amounts from 1999 will have to be entered. The confirmation number provided by the IRS should be noted on the Form 4868 and maintained in the callers' records. Moreover, taxpayers will have the option of authorizing an automatic withdrawal from a checking or savings account to pay any expected balance due.
Taxpayers may also e-file their extension requests, using the same two figures for identification purposes as those used when making extension requests via telephone. A third method of requesting a filing extension is to charge extension-related payments to an acceptable major credit card. While the IRS does not charge a fee for credit card payments, the companies authorized to process such payments charge taxpayers a convenience fee.
Whether an extension request is being filed electronically or on paper, taxpayers must estimate their total tax liability based on the available information. If the estimate is later found by the IRS to be unreasonable, the extension will be deemed null and void. However, taxpayers will still receive credit for payments made with extension requests.
One deadline that taxpayers cannot extend is the date for claiming a 1997 refund if they have not yet filed returns for that year. Unless taxpayers obtained filing extensions in 1998, the April 16, 2001, deadline applies.