What Is Form 4868: Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return?

If you can't file your federal income tax return by the filing deadline, you can get an extension just by asking for it.

All you need to do is submit an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) extension form, known officially as Form 4868: Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. 

Notably, however, this doesn't get you more time to pay any taxes you owe. It only extends the deadline to fill out and submit the paperwork.

Key Takeaways

  • Form 4868 gives taxpayers a six-month extension, for any reason, to file federal income tax returns.
  • An extension for federal income tax returns due on April 15 would give you until October 15.
  • In order to get an extension, you need to submit the form by the tax filing deadline.
  • Filing the IRS extension form doesn’t give you more time to pay your taxes if you owe them.
  • If you owe taxes and don't pay them by the income tax deadline, you’ll be on the hook for interest and penalties on unpaid taxes, which begin to accrue on the original due date, even if you filed for an extension.

Due to Hurricane Ida, some residents and business owners in Louisiana and parts of Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey have been granted extensions on their deadlines for filings and payments to the IRS. Most relate to upcoming due dates for quarterly filings and payments.

Understanding Form 4868

You may need an extension if you have not yet received all the necessary information to prepare your return. For example, you might be missing a Schedule K-1 from a trust in which you are a beneficiary.

If you are self-employed, there is an added benefit to obtaining a filing extension. It gives you until the extended due date to set up and fund a simplified employee pension (SEP) retirement plan.

By obtaining the extension, you avoid any late-filing penalties as long as you file by the extended due date. If you don't, you face a late filing penalty of 5% of the amount due for each month or part of the month your return is late. If your return is more than 60 days late, the minimum penalty is $435 (as of 2020) or the balance due, whichever is smaller.

It's important to keep in mind that filing an extension does not mean you are off the hook for paying taxes due by the deadline. You'll owe interest and potential penalties if you pay late, whether or not you file a Form 4868.

Depending on your state, filing the federal form may also give you an automatic extension for state income tax purposes.

Download Form 4868: Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return Here

All versions of Form 4868 are available on the IRS website.

Who Can File Form 4868?

Taxpayers who want more time for any reason to file federal income tax returns can use Form 4868. You can file the form when you need an extension for a variety of returns in the 1040 series including:


  • Form 1040: U.S. Individual Tax Return
  • Form 1040-SR: U.S. Tax Return for Seniors
  • Form 1040-NR: U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return
  • Form 1040-PR: Self-Employment Tax Return-Puerto Rico
  • Form 1040-SS: U.S. Self-Employment Tax Return


What Information Do I Need to Fill Out Form 4868?

Form 4868 form is only a half page. It doesn't even require a date or signature. You don't have to give a reason for requesting an extension. All you have to provide is:


  • In Part I: Your name, address, Social Security Number and, if applicable, your spouse's Social Security number.
  • In Part II: A good faith estimate of what you think your final taxes will be, after subtracting the total tax payments you already made for the year.
  • If you expect to owe taxes, you need to pay the balance with the form.
Form 4868

Does Form 4868 Give Me More Time to Pay My Taxes?

No. Your payment is still due on the original due date, usually April 15.


If you submit a Form 4868 to the IRS, you should send in a payment of the estimated balance due. The more you pay, the less your interest and penalties will be if you pay less than you owe. If you file Form 4868 electronically but want to send a payment by mail, send a copy of the e-filed form along with your check. The form acts as your voucher in this case so your check will be credited properly to your tax account.

The IRS will allow you to skip filling out a Form 4868 entirely if you pay your estimated income tax due online or by phone using Direct Pay, EFTPS, or a credit or debit card and indicate that the payment is for an extension. It will provide confirmation of the extension if you take this route.


I Live Abroad. Do I Need to File an Extension?

A two-month filing extension is automatically given to a U.S. citizen or resident who lives outside of the U.S. or Puerto Rico, or whose main place of work is outside the U.S. or Puerto Rico, or who is in the military or naval service on duty outside the U.S. or Puerto Rico. They do not have to request a two-month extension.

If they want even more time, they must complete Form 4868 and check the box on Line 8 indicating they are "out of the country." By doing this, there is an additional four months to file without any late-filing penalty.