Need an extension? How to ask the IRS for more time

Dustin Johnson
By Dustin Johnson

The 2023 tax extension deadline is April 18, 2023. You can file for an extension with the IRS, giving you until Monday, October 16, 2023, to file your tax return.

If you anticipate needing extra time to file your taxes, you can file for an extension with the IRS. Many people don’t know this, so they rush their tax returns or file late and pay the penalty. If you’re confused about how to file an extension for 2023 taxes and want all your questions answered, you’re in the right place.

We’ll show you the how, what, where, and when of asking the IRS for an extension. This information should empower you to avoid penalties and save time and stress. Whether you own an LLC, freelance, or are employed, this information will help you.

Key Takeaways:

  • You can file an extension for free without facing penalties or legal action.
  • Individual filers have two options to file a tax extension, either electronically or by mail, with form 4868.
  • You can request up to six months (October 16th, 2023) to file an extension.
  • An extension to file is not an extension of time to pay, meaning you must pay an estimate of what you owe on the date your normal return is due.

What is a tax extension?

A tax extension gives you more time to file your tax return. An extension to file is not an extension to pay, meaning you must still pay taxes when your tax return is usually due. If you need extra time to pay, you should pay what you can and set up a payment plan instead. Tax returns are typically due on April 15th or the next business day if it falls on a weekend or holiday.

If you’re a small business owner, solopreneur, or partner in a multi-member LLC, ComplYant can help you keep track of your tax deadlines.

How To Ask The IRS For An Extension

Requesting an extension is free and straightforward for calendar-year taxpayers. The IRS gives you three options to file an extension. For all options, you’ll need to provide some additional information, including:

  • Your full name
  • Mailing address
  • Social security number
  • Estimated total tax liability for the year in question
  • The amount you’re paying
  • Your prior year’s adjusted gross income (AGI)

Here are your three options:

  1. Individual tax filers, regardless of income, can use IRS’s Free File to request an automatic tax-filing extension electronically.
  2. You can also get an extension by paying all or part of your estimated income tax and indicating the payment is for an extension using any IRS Direct Pay, EFTPS: The Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, a debit or credit card
  3. Print, fill out, and mail Form 4868 to the IRS. Due to staffing shortages, the IRS recommends filing for an extension online.

If you e-file, you’ll receive a notification that the IRS has accepted your filing. The IRS will only reject an extension if any information is incorrect. 

How do I pay my taxes if I haven’t filed yet? 

Good question.

  • If you know you’ll owe money to the IRS, you are encouraged to make what’s called an estimated tax payment when you file Form 4868.
  • If you know you’ll get a refund, you won’t need to worry about making estimated payments when you file an extension. Ensure you’re confident that the IRS owes you money. Otherwise, you’ll face penalties.

Note: One consequence of filing an extension is delaying how soon you can get your tax refund. We recommend you take your time instead of rushing, but if the IRS owes you money, you’ll have to wait until after they process your return and refund. The average taxpayer receives their refund within 21 days of filing.

Is there a penalty for filing for an extension?

No, there is no penalty for filing for an extension. However, keep a few things in mind, so it doesn’t cost you later.

  • The IRS will charge you interest on the unpaid balance if you don’t pay the full amount you owe with an estimated payment.
  • In addition to interest, you need to pay at least 90% of the amount you owe. You may face a late payment penalty of one-half of one percent for each month, or part of a month, up to a maximum of 25%.
  • The penalty for filing late is usually 5% of the unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month that a tax return is late, up to 25% of your taxes.

Reasons to file for an extension

The IRS won’t require you to give a reason to qualify for an extension. There’s no reason to rush your tax return because you forgot or have what you deem a “poor” excuse. You won’t get in trouble if you follow the procedure.

Here are some common reasons you may ask for extensions:

  • You simply lost track of time dealing with life
  • You lost the W-2 your employer sent them and are waiting for a duplicate
  • You experienced an unexpected life event like a death or illness in the family
  • You fell victim to a natural disaster (Consult the IRS Disaster Relief Announcements) 

Worried about deadlines? ComplYant can help 

As tax professionals, we know how stressful filing and paying taxes is. If you’re reading this, know that you are a responsible taxpayer. Life gets in the way, but by following the rules and asking for an extension, you're saving yourself money and additional stress.

If you’re a business owner, solopreneur, or startup founder, ComplYant can help you keep track of your tax deadlines. There’s nothing wrong with asking for an extension, but few things beat the feeling of knowing you have nothing to worry about with the IRS.

Dustin Johnson
By Dustin Johnson
Dustin Johnson is a Senior Tax Research Specialist at ComplYant. Prior to joining ComplYant, he spent over eleven years performing tax research at the world’s largest tax preparation company. Dustin holds a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Juris Doctor. Outside of work, Dustin enjoys biking and spending time with his family.

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