Updated for 2016. This year, the deadline for federal tax filing is Monday, April 18th, 2016. If you file for an extension, you can extend the time allowed to file your return by six months to Monday, October 17, 2016. (It does not extend the time to pay any tax due.) There are many legitimate reasons to ask for such an extension, and the extension is granted automatically without needing to provide a reason.
Here’s how to e-File a official federal extension with the IRS in minutes for free (plus state extensions where available!). I have done a dry run with each option. Advantages of using e-File include:
- You save the time and postage costs of paper mailings.
- You can estimate your tax liability using online software and/or calculators.
- You receive confirmation of receipt via e-mail or text, often within hours.
Option #1: TaxACT
This is how I usually do my extension. Tax prep software TaxACT.com allows you to e-File your Federal and State extension (where applicable) for free through them. You don’t need to actually use them to file your taxes later, although you certainly can.
First, register for free at TaxACT.com with your e-mail address and pick a password. To go directly to the extension form, click on the “Filing” tab on the top, and then the “File Extension” link right below it (see below). You will then be guided through the Form 4868 in a question-and-answer format. TaxACT will file the form electronically for you (or you can print and snail mail).
TaxACT also provides a tax liability estimator to help you determine if you need to make a payment with your extension. If you fill out more details in the main software, then the estimate will be improved. If you don’t think you’ll owe any taxes, you can just put down zero as your expected tax liability. If you wish to make a tax payment, you will be able to choose to pay with direct withdrawal from a bank account (account and routing numbers required) or pay with a credit card (IRS fees apply).
Afterward, you can confirm the status of your extension e-file by going to efstatus.taxact.com. They will even send you a confirmation via e-mail or text message. I got my confirmation less than 3 hours after submission.
Free state tax extensions. As you can see above, TaxACT will now even file out your state tax extension online if possible, otherwise they will provide guidance fill out all the paper form entries for you and all you have to do is print it out and mail it in. Note that you will need to have started a State Tax return with them (even with no personal info added), for the State extension e-file option to be shown.
Option #2: TurboTax
TurboTax.com also allows you to file a Federal extension online for free after signing up for a free account.. They will not e-File your State extension, although they will provide some guidance for your state-specific needs. sign up for an account at TurboTax.com first and after logging in, look for the big search box on the top right and type in the keyword “extend“, hit Enter, and then click on the link “Jump to extend”.
It will walk you through the information needed for Form 4868. Again, if you don’t think you’ll owe any taxes, you can just put down zero as your expected tax liability. If you wish to make a tax payment, you will be able to choose to pay with direct withdrawal from a bank account (account and routing numbers required) or pay with a credit card (IRS fees apply).
According to the Turbotax website, you should receive a confirmation email from the IRS within 48 hours of filing the extension.
Option #3: Free File Fillable Forms
As the name suggests, FreeFileFillableForms.com is another privately-run site that allows you to fill out Federal IRS forms online, for free. They are basically the exact same paper forms that the IRS would provide you, with no additional guidance or assistance. State tax extensions are not included.
Each year, you will have to create a new account. After you’re signed in, click on “Continue” and pick your form. Go with Form 1040. On the top right, you should see an icon with the label “File an Extension”.
This will bring up Form 4868. Click around the form to fill the boxes out. As above, you’ll need to estimate your total tax liability, but since this is just an online version of the form so there is no guidance included. You can request your estimated tax payment to be withdrawn electronically by supplying your bank’s routing and account numbers. For identification purposes, you’ll need your adjusted gross income (AGI) from your previous year tax return.
One last reminder: Filing an extension only extends the time to file your return and does not extend the time to pay any tax due. To avoid late payment penalties and interest you must estimate what tax will be due and pay that when you file the extension.