Updated for 2015. The deadline for federal tax filing is Wednesday, April 15th, 2015. If you file for an extension, you will automatically be extended by six months to October 15, 2015. Here’s how to e-File a official federal extension with the IRS in minutes for free (plus state extensions too!). Why bother with paper and stamps – do it all online, avoid getting hit with penalties, and get confirmation of receipt within hours.
Option #1: TaxACT
This is how I did my extension for the last two years. Use the online tax prep software TaxACT.com and e-file your extension for free through them. You don’t need to actually use them to file your taxes later, although TaxACT is also free for federal taxes with e-File included regardless of income and $21.99 for state returns with e-File included. (See my TaxACT review.)
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).
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. That’s how it worked for my state extension.
Option #2: TurboTax
TurboTax.com recently also started allowing users to file an extension online for free. They will do your Federal extension and try to assist you with your State extension as well. Again, you will need to sign up for an account at TurboTax.com first, but you don’t have to file your actual taxes with them if you don’t want to. (See my TurboTax review.) 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. 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
This one does not include state tax extensions, but it’s still free. Go to the Free File Fillable Forms site (say that 5 times fast) and click on “Start Free File Fillable Forms”. Click “Sign-in” on the top left, and create a new account. After you’re signed in, click on “Continue” and pick your form. Go with 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. 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. As above, 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.
Please note that 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.