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How to File a Tax Extension: Get It Right, Not Rushed

How to File a Tax Extension: Get It Right, Not Rushed

March 20, 2024

Are you worried about the fast-approaching tax deadline? Filing your taxes can be especially stressful if you're running behind schedule. If you need more time to prepare your tax return, filing a tax extension can provide the breathing room you need. 

Some examples of reasons you might want to consider filing a tax extension include:

  • Complex tax situations
  • Missing or incomplete information
  • Unexpected life events
  • Travel or work obligations
  • Avoiding errors
  • Maximizing deductions and credits

Dive into our step-by-step guide on how to file a tax extension as well as some common tax mistakes that can be avoided with the help of tax preparation experts.

Step 1) Understand the Deadline

April 15th, 2024 is the deadline to file your federal income tax return. If you can't meet this deadline, you can request an extension to file your return by October 15th, 2024. However, it's important to note that an extension to file is not an extension to pay any taxes owed. You must still estimate and pay any taxes owed by the original deadline to avoid paying penalties and interest.

Situations that Fall Under an Automatic Tax-Filing Extension

You may qualify for an automatic tax-filing extension the following apply:

  • You live in a federally declared disaster area
  • You are in the military stationed abroad or serving in a combat zone
  • You are a citizen or resident alien living outside the U.S.

Step 2) Get a Tax Extension

There are 3 ways to initiate a tax extension according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS):

1) File IRS Form 4868

You can file by mail, online with an IRS e-filing partner, or through a tax professional

If you choose to file by mail, make sure to send it to the correct address for your state, which can be found in the instructions for Form 4868.

2) Pay online and check the box

You can also pay what you owe using an online payment option and check the box that you are paying as part of filing for an extension. This option avoids having to file a separate extension form. You’ll receive a confirmation number of your extension for your records.

3) Use Free File (no income limit for extensions)

Use IRS Free File to request an automatic tax-filing extension electronically.

Step 3) Estimate Your Tax Liability

When you are filing for an extension, you must estimate your total tax liability for the year and subtract any taxes already paid through withholding or estimated tax payments. You may be subject to penalties and interest if you underestimate your tax liability and don't pay enough by the original deadline (April 15th).

Step 4) Pay Any Taxes Owed

If you owe taxes, it's important to pay as much as you can by the original deadline. You can make a payment with your extension request using IRS Direct Pay, a credit or debit card, or by mailing a check or money order with Form 4868.

Step 5) Keep a Copy for Your Records

After filing for an extension, keep a copy of Form 4868 for your records. This will help you track your extension request and ensure you meet the extended filing deadline.

Should I Do My Own Taxes?

Now that you have a tax extension, you may or may not feel confident in your ability to file an accurate tax return that maximizes your deductions and credits before October 15th. 

While it's certainly possible to file a tax extension and prepare your taxes yourself, working with a financial tax advisor offers several advantages. A tax advisor can help you navigate complex tax laws, identify deductions and credits you may have overlooked, and ensure your return is accurate and filed on time. Additionally, a tax advisor can provide ongoing tax planning and advice to help minimize your tax liability in future years.

Common Tax Mistakes

Rushing through your tax return can lead to costly mistakes. You may miss out on a larger refund than you claimed, owe more taxes that include interest and penalties, or find yourself at risk for an audit from the IRS.

Taxes can be complicated, but some of the most common tax mistakes are simple errors according to the IRS. These include:

  • Filing too early
  • Missing or inaccurate Social Security numbers (SSN)
  • Misspelled names
  • Inaccurate information
  • Incorrect filing status
  • Math errors
  • Figuring credits or deductions
  • Incorrect bank account numbers
  • Unsigned forms

Benefits of Working with a Tax Advisor on Tax Extensions & Tax Planning

  • Experience
    • A tax advisor knows how to navigate complex tax laws, helping you make informed decisions about your taxes.
  • Tax Planning 
  • Maximized Deductions and Credits 
    • A tax advisor can help you identify available tax benefits for which you may be eligible.
  • Audit Support
    • A tax advisor can provide support and representation if you are audited by the IRS. 
  • Peace of Mind
    • You can relax knowing that your taxes are being handled by a professional who understands the tax code and is working in your best interests.

Get Started with Tax Advisors Serving Arizona, Utah, California & Colorado

Filing a tax extension can be helpful if you need more time to prepare your tax return. Work with the tax advisors at Benefit & Financial Strategies for help navigating the tax extension process with confidence. Contact us today to discuss your needs surrounding tax planning, tax filing, or financial advising.