All individuals in the United States can opt to extend the submission of their federal income tax return Form 1040 and all attachments from April 15 to October 15. If you've never had to file an extension you may be a little nervous about doing it and want to be sure that you follow all the rules. Additionally, if you're one of the early filers that have the tax returns done as soon as you get your W-2, you may be wondering why anyone would want to file an extension. This article answers all your questions about extending.
Why do Individuals File Extensions?
Usually only individuals who own businesses or expect to receive K-1s file to extend their returns. For example, maybe you haven't had a chance to finalize the books for your arts and crafts business. Could be that although you took an inventory at the end of the year, you still haven't had a chance to value your ending inventory. Or could be that you are so busy fulfilling orders or getting ready for craft shows that you haven't been able to quite get around to finishing your return or making that appointment to see your tax preparer.
These factors and more complicate the individual return. Also, you may not have received everything you need from the other businesses you own or have already been advised you are getting a corrected K-1.
Others with relatively simple returns may extend because they have been ill, waiting for a child's social security number or attempting to contact a spouse from whom they separated during the year.
One very important point to remember - filing an extension does not extend the due date for you to pay your taxes in full - your date for that important event for your 2010 return is not extended beyond April 1.
When to File for an Extension
The deadline to file an extension is the same as the deadline for the original return. For a Form 1040, this is usually April 15 unless you qualify to be treated as being out of the country. In that case, your deadline to file an extension is June 15. Very strict rules on this so make sure you do qualify as being a taxpayer out of the country (read page the instructions on Form 4868, page two for the full scope on qualifying for being out of the country).
How to File for an Extension
Use Internal Revenue Service Form 4868 to either mail in a paper Form 4868 with any needed payment or efile the form through your computer. The IRS has great instructions on how to do this in the Free File 'It's Fast. It's Safe. It's Free. section of the IRS website.
Need to send in money too? Never fear! You can also easily make an electronic payment. If you don't want to make an electronic payment, you still electronically file your Form 4868 and mail in payment using the Form 4868 as your payment voucher.
Just be sure that the entire extravaganza is complete by the original filing deadline, which is April 15. The mailbox rule applies for Forms 4868 or payment send by mail - the IRS uses the postmark on the envelope as the date of receipt.