Updated for 2020. This year, the deadline for federal tax filing is Wednesday, April 15th, 2020. If you file for an extension, you can extend the time allowed to file your return by six months to Thursday, October 15, 2020. It does not extend the time to pay any tax due, although due to the coronavirus the IRS has
The penalty for late filing is many times higher than the penalty for late payment! If you are not 100% sure you can file in time, file for an extension.
Here’s how to e-File a federal and state tax extension for free. (State extension 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.
- The potential convenience of filing your state tax extension online at the same time.
Option #1: TaxACT
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- North Carolina
To go directly to the extension form, click on the “Filing” tab on the left menu, and then the “File Extension” link right below it. You will be able to choose whether to file extension for Federal, State, or both. 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.
Option #2: TurboTax
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,
For some reason, they make you create a new account every year. After you’re signed in, on the top left of Form 1040 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.
Bottom line. There are many options to e-file your tax extension for free. Confirmation is usually provided within 48 hours, as opposed to having to worry about if your paper form got snail-mailed to the IRS successfully. 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. However, the penalty for late filing is many times higher than the penalty for late payment. If you are not 100% sure you can file in time, file for an extension.
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