What Is a Filing Extension?
A filing extension is an exemption that can be made to either individual taxpayers or businesses that are unable to file a tax return to the federal government by the due date. Individuals can complete and file IRS Form 4868 by the regular date of their return–which is usually April 15—for an automatic six-month extension. Most business tax returns can be extended by filing IRS Form 7004.
However, the extension of time to file does not provide a corresponding extension for payment of taxes owed. An explanation of the reason for the extension is not required. Some states accept IRS extensions, but others require taxpayers to file a separate state extension form.
- A filing extension is an exemption that can be made to either individual taxpayers or businesses that are unable to file a tax return to the federal government by the due date.
- Individuals can complete and file IRS Form 4868 by the regular date of their return—which is usually April 15—for an automatic six-month extension.
- Most business tax returns can be extended by filing IRS Form 7004.
How a Filing Extension Works
Taxpayers who cannot pay their taxes will not only not gain anything by not filing an extension, they will also pay a much greater penalty than those who file and cannot pay. The failure-to-file penalty is usually 5% of the total amount owed per month—and can go as high as 25%—while the failure-to-pay penalty is only 0.5% of the amount owed per month. The interest runs until the tax is paid in full. Beginning with returns due after Dec. 31, 2019, if a return is more than 60 days late, the additional tax is $435 or 100% of the amount due, whichever is less, an increase from $330.
There are three ways for a taxpayer to request an automatic extension of time to file an individual tax return:
- Pay all or part of their estimated income tax due and indicate that the payment is for an extension
- File Form 4868 electronically by accessing IRS e-file using a home computer or with the help of a tax professional who uses e-file
- File a paper Form 4868 and enclose payment of the estimate of tax due.
U.S. citizen and resident taxpayers who are out of the country on the regular due date are allowed two extra months to file returns—and pay any amount due—without requesting an extension. However, interest will still be charged on payments made after the regular due date, without regard to the extension.
For businesses organized as C corporations, the filing extension is due by the 15th day of the fourth month after the end of its tax year. For businesses organized as S corporations, the income tax return or extension is due by the 15th day of the third month after the end of its tax year. For businesses organized as partnerships, the extension is due by the 15th day of the third month after the end of its tax year. For example, the due date for an extension of an S corporation with a fiscal year ending April 30, 2020, would be July 15, 2020.
In response to the ongoing COVID19 pandemic, the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced on March 17, 2021, that the federal income tax filing due date for individuals for the 2020 tax year will be automatically extended from April 15, 2021, to May 17, 2021. Tax payments due can be made up through May 17th without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed.
Also, on Feb. 22, 2021, the IRS announced that residents of Texas and other states in which FEMA declared recent winter storms a disaster have a filing extension until June 15, 2021, to file taxes that would otherwise be due on April 15, 2021.