Consider Extension Options as April 15 Approaches

As the clock continues to tick closer to April 15, many tax return preparers will have to consider the option of extending the due date of their tax returns. Individual income tax returns are required to be e-filed or postmarked by midnight, April 15, but the Internal Revenue Service easily accommodates those who need a little more time to collect the information necessary for completion of their returns.

  • Traditional extension by mail. You can put Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return," in the mail by midnight April 15 and automatically receive a four-month extension until August 15 to meet your filing deadline. As long as you file the form, the extension is automatic, meaning you don't have to come up with a reason for filing late. Don't forget to check into the rules for extending the due date of your state return as well. Some states accept the federal extension, some require extension forms of their own.
  • Extend by telephone. The IRS has initiated a telefile service for taxpayers who wish to request the automatic four-month extension. You can refer to the Form 4868 for the information required in the phone call, then call the IRS at 1-888-796-1074 to request your extension by phone. The IRS will provide you with a confirmation number when the phone call is completed, and there is no requirement to send the 4868 in the mail.
  • Extend online. Taxpayers with access to computer tax preparation software or those who know a tax preparer with such access can file an electronic Form 4868. Typically there is a fee associated with this filing. Follow the instructions in your tax software program to file the form online. Intuit's TurboTax software uses Pacific time for all of its electronic filings, so East Coast residents who use this program actually have until 3 a.m. April 16 to make the decision to extend their tax deadline. However, the software company urges taxpayers to not wait until the last minute to file returns or extensions in case there is a problem.
  • Extend by Credit Card. Credit card companies that process tax payments accept both federal and state tax payments. If you indicate you are paying for an extension, they will notify the taxing authority of your payment and you won't have to file a paper extension. You can use one of these services to pay taxes for a current tax return, an extension, an estimate, or an installment agreement. Pay your tax by credit card at one of these two facilities:

    PhoneCharge, Inc.
    1-888-ALLTAX (1-888-255-8299)
    1-877-851-9964 (Customer Service)
    www.1888ALLTAXX.com

    Official Payments Corporation
    1-800-2PAY-TAX (1-800-272-9829)
    1-877-754-4413 (Customer Service)
    www.officialpayments.com

No matter what method of extension you use, don't forget that extensions only extend the due date of the tax return - the tax payment is still due on April 15. A late payment is subject to penalties and interest, so be sure to get your payment in on time even if the supporting data won't follow for a few more months.

Paper extensions should have a check for any outstanding tax liability enclosed with the extension form. Taxpayers who e-file or telephone their extension can pay their tax liability with a MasterCard, American Express, or Discover credit card. Credit card processing companies will accept extension-related payments. Note that these companies charge a fee for their service.

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