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Need More Time? Here’s What You Need to Know to File a Federal Tax Extension

Jo Willetts, EA

Director, Tax Resources

Published on: April 14, 2018

You started the year determined to get your tax return completed way before the deadline. Then life happened and filing your taxes almost became an after-thought. Even though we’re a few weeks away from Tax Day which might sound like a lot of time, it’ll be here before you know it. The sooner you get started on that return, the more options you'll have for getting it done smoothly.

If you’re overwhelmed, under pressure, and don’t know where to begin, save yourself the anxiety by turning to a Tax Pro. If you won’t be ready by the deadline, filing for a federal tax extension has its perks. While an extension won’t get you out of paying your taxes by the regular tax deadline, it will give you more time to ensure you’re taking advantage of the right tax deductions before you file your tax return with the IRS. You may be asking, isn’t the whole point of getting a tax extension so that you don't have to pay right away? Unfortunately, it’s not.

There are some still waiting for one or two forms to trickle in, and others who have had all their paperwork for a while, but simply can’t find the time (or the patience) to actually file. Whatever the reason: If you want an extension to file your income taxes, the IRS will give you one, NO questions asked. The beauty of the tax extension is that it gives you more time to file your taxes - but don't be late filing the extension itself. You MUST file for an automatic extension by  Monday, April 17 in order to have your deadline pushed back to October 16, 2023.

The penalty for filing late is:

  • The penalty for paying late is 5% for every month that the outstanding tax is not paid.

  • The maximum penalty for paying late is 25% of the total.

  • After 60 days, the minimum penalty is $425 or 100% of the balance due, whichever is smaller.

Filing a tax extension keeps you in good standing with the IRS with respect to your paperwork, but a tax extension doesn’t grant you more time to pay what taxes you owe beyond the tax due date. Don’t let your inability to pay prevent you from filing on time; avoiding filing your return because you can’t make a tax payment will only make matters worse. An IRS Installment Agreement is generally a much better choice. Keep in mind that you’re considered to have reasonable cause for the period covered by this automatic extension, and can avoid penalties if:

  • At least 90% of the total tax on your 2022 return is paid on or before the regular due date of your return through withholding, estimated tax payments, or payments made with Form 4868.

The IRS compounds interest daily and penalty assessments monthly. Compounding interest and penalties simply means the amount assessed today becomes part of your principal tomorrow and is subject to the next assessment for interest and penalty. So you can count on any balance due to the IRS to grow rapidly! Filing an extension can remove the failure-to-file penalty, which is the larger penalty on a monthly basis, but it will not remove the failure-to-pay penalty which will add an extra half of a percent each month to your overall IRS debt.

If you’re in need of an extension, we’re here to help you get it. Don’t put off completing your required taxes; talk to a Tax Pro today to understand your specific situation.

About the Author

Jo Willetts, Director of Tax Resources at Jackson Hewitt, has more than 35 years of experience in the tax industry. As an Enrolled Agent, Jo has attained the highest level of certification for a tax professional. She began her career at Jackson Hewitt as a Tax Pro, working her way up to General Manager of a franchise store. In her current role, Jo provides expert knowledge company-wide to ensure that tax information distributed through all Jackson Hewitt channels is current and accurate.

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