How To Get An Extension To File Your Tax Return

Tax filing is really hectic and very stressful especially if you are filing the long form and you are still waiting for various documentations. Others may be out of the country during that time while others may have a very difficult tax return that requires thorough preparation. If you think you are not going to make the filing dateline for whatever reason, you may qualify for an extension.

Please keep in mind that an extension of time to file a tax return DOES NOT mean that the taxpayer can also extend the time to pay. In fact, if the amount owed is not paid on the due date, an interest will be charged starting from the due date until the date the tax is fully paid.

Essentially there are three types of extensions available to the taxpayers. These are:

  • The 6-month extension – (generally October 15 if you are using the calendar year)
  • The automatic 2-month extension – (generally June 15 if you are using the calendar year)
  • Extension for military in the combat zone

In general, the IRS will not grant any extensions that are longer than six months. However, if the taxpayer is outside of United States and meet certain requirements, the IRS may reconsider and grant an extension.

6-Month Extension to File

If the taxpayer is unable to file his/her return by the due date, he/she can submit an extension to file which will extend the due date to six months from the original due date. (In general, the original due date is April 15 and it will be extended to October 15).

  • How to file an Extension – The taxpayer can get an extension by filing the Form 4868 - Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File US Individual Tax Return , which can be done either electronically or mailing a paper form. When filing electronically (e-file), the taxpayer can use the tax software or with the help of a tax professional. If the taxpayer owes money, he/she will need to estimate the tax liability and subtract what was already been withheld/paid. If the taxpayer cannot pay the amount, he/she can still get the extension but the taxpayer may pay interest and late payment penalties on the unpaid tax.

Automatic 2-Month Extension

Usually, the automatic 2-month extension to file a tax return and pay any income tax due is only applicable to US citizen or residents AND IF on the tax return due date (April 15 for most filers) the taxpayer is EITHER:

  • Living overseas (outside the United States and Puerto Rico), and your main place of business or post of duty is also overseas – OR –
  • In a military service on duty overseas.

If  filing a joint return, only one spouse need to qualify for the extension filing requirement.

  • How to file the extension – The extension is automatic, which means that the taxpayer does not need to send anything before the due date (April 15). However, when filing the tax return during the extension period, a written declaration stating that he/she was overseas or outside of United States at the time of the tax return due date must be included on the tax return. However, he/she may need to file Form 2350 in some cases. If for whatever reason the taxpayer is still unable to complete the return during the automatic 2-month extension, he/she can file for an additional 4-months extension, for a total of 6-months, by filing Form 4868 and checking the box on line 8.

Extension for Military In the Combat Zone

For taxpayers who are in the military service and are currently serving in the combat zone, the deadline to file a tax return and pay any tax owed can be extended for at least 180 days after the later of:

  • the last day of service in the combat zone or the last day the area qualifies as a combat zone OR
  • the last day of any continuous qualified hospitalization for injury from service in the combat zone.

Source: Publicatin 17




  1. Yet another useful post Ken!