Should You File an Extension For Your Personal Income Tax Return? .
By Wayne Davies
April 15 is fast approaching but there's no way you can get your personal income tax return done by then. What's a procrastinator to do? File an extension, of course. But perhaps you are wondering whether this is the best option for you. Read on to find out.
You can automatically extend the April 15 due date to October 15 by filing Form 4868, "Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return." So now you have six more months to file your personal income tax return.
The nice thing about Form 4868 is that simply filing this form grants an automatic, no-questions-asked 6-month extension. You don't have to have a reason. Just sending this form to the IRS on or before April 15 gets you the extra six months.
But here's another important point about Form 4868: This 6-month extension is NOT an extension to pay any tax you may owe on the tax return. Form 4868 only grants an extension of time to file the tax return.
So, if you usually get a refund on your personal tax return, you are OK. But, if you think you might have a balance due, or if you are not sure, then you should go ahead and prepare the return to the best of your ability, do the calculations, and see where you stand.
If you are getting a refund, great. If you're not in a hurry to get the refund, then file the extension form and wait until October 15 to send in the return. But if you have a balance due on the return, then you should send in your balance due with Form 4868. That way you avoid any penalty and interest for late payment of tax.
When October 15 rolls around, you send in the return, showing the Form 4868 payment as a credit. The end result is this: you paid your tax on time (April 15), and you filed your tax return legally late (October 15) because you filed the extension form on time.
Obviously, the key here is whether or not you have a balance due on your return. If you have a balance due, but don't send in the payment with Form 4868, then you will have penalty and interest charges for paying the tax after April 15.
Bottom line: Do not overlook the fact that Form 4868 does not grant you an extension of time to pay the tax. It only gives you an extension of time to file the return.