Updated for 2013. The deadline for filing your federal taxes this year is Monday, April 15th, 2013. Here’s how to do it electronically for free. If you file for an extension, you will automatically be extended to Tuesday, October 15, 2013. Here’s how you can e-File a official federal extension with the IRS in minutes for free (and possibly your state extension 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. Just sign up with TaxACT.com and e-file your extension for free through them. It’s quick. It’s easy. You don’t even 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 is only $14.95 for state returns with free e-File.
(That’s cheaper than TurboTax or TaxCut, although if you’re already familiar with those programs it may be worth the extra bucks to stick with them, since you can save time by importing your previous year’s data.)
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. You will then be able to have the form filed electronically instantly (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 can 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 too! I just filed again this year and found out that TaxACT will now even file out your state tax extension online if possible, otherwise they will fill out all the paper form entries for you and all you have to do is print it out and mail it in.
Option #2: Free File Fillable Forms
This one’s more frustrating to use, but it’s still free so here are some instructions. 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 2010 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.