How can you extend a tax filing deadline?

1 min readLast updated March 28, 2024by Unbiased team

Discover everything you need to know about filing for a tax extension, including how it works, deadline dates, and how to use the correct channels.


  • The regular tax filing deadline is April 15, but the IRS allows taxpayers to apply for extensions. 

  • 10% - 15% of taxpayers submit a tax extension form annually. 

  • An extension gives people an extra six months to file their tax paperwork, with a new tax deadline of October 15. 

  • For assistance with tax preparation or extensions, it’s always best to consult a financial advisor

What is a tax extension? 

A tax extension is a grace period granted by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), permitting taxpayers to delay their filing deadline.  

Generally, taxes are due by April 15 each year.  

Filing for an extension gives taxpayers an additional six months, pushing the deadline to October 15.  

However, this extension only applies to filing tax returns, not the payment of taxes owed. 

How do tax extensions work? 

Tax returns can be complicated, and many people may need more time to submit them. 

The IRS has a one-page application form, Form 4868, that gives an automatic six-month extension for turning in paperwork. You will use this form whether you owe tax or expect a refund. 

Filing a tax extension form when you owe taxes to the IRS does not mean you have an extension for payment.  

The best course of action is to estimate the amount owed and make a payment by the original deadline of April 15. This will prevent you from having to pay late payment penalties and interest. 

If you're expecting a tax refund, you may think submitting an IRS tax extension is unnecessary. Although there's no penalty for not applying for an extension when waiting for a refund, it's always a wise idea to do it anyway. It helps with accurate record-keeping, and if you have made an error and actually owe tax, you will avoid late filing penalties.  

How much does a tax extension cost? 

Filing a tax extension is free, but failing to file your tax return and not submitting an extension could be very costly.  

To avoid a penalty, you must pay at least 90% of the amount owing for the current year or 100% of the previous year by tax day. 

How many times can you file a tax extension? 

Taxpayers can apply for one automatic extension during the tax period, which gives them an additional six months to submit their tax returns.  

For example, your 2023 tax return's deadline is April 15, 2024. If you apply for an IRS tax extension, it will be due on October 15, 2024.  

However, your 2024 tax return will still be due on April 15, 2025. If you require an extension for your 2024 tax filing, you will apply again using Form 4868 to apply for a new extension.  

How do you file a tax extension? 

If you require more time to file your taxes, you must submit the IRS Form 4868 by April 15.  

You will need to gather some information to file the extension.  

  • Identification information: Your name, Social Security number (and your spouse's, if applicable), and your address 

  • Individual income tax information: Estimated taxes owing, the total payments already submitted, the amount due, and the amount you are currently paying. 

Taxpayers can file for a tax extension in various ways: 

  • Download Form 4868 from the IRS website and file the tax extension online. You can do this independently, using free tax software, or with a tax professional's aid. Once you've submitted the form, the IRS will send you an email acknowledgment. It's advisable to keep this with your tax records.  

  • When an individual's adjusted gross income (AGI) falls below a certain amount ($79,000 for 2024), they may use brand-name software for free from Free File. 

  • Taxpayers may still file for a tax extension through the mail. However, it must be postmarked before or on April 15. 

  • Alternatively, if you're hiring a professional to prepare your taxes, they can file for an extension on your behalf. 

What are the advantages of filing a tax extension? 

Filing for a tax extension is simple and free using Form 4868, and doing so can have several benefits: 

  • You avoid any potential late-filing penalties, which can total up to 25% of your tax due. 

  • You have six extra months to prepare your tax return and ensure you're applying for all the appropriate tax benefits. 

  • It eliminates some of the stress that comes with the tax season. 

  • You could save on tax preparation fees. Tax professionals are busiest during tax season and often charge premium rates for their efforts. Once the tax deadline has passed, many lower their rates. 

  • If you exceed the IRA contribution limits for the year, you have more time to withdraw the extra funds, which will help you avoid a heavy penalty. 

Do I need to file a tax extension? 

Some people don't need to file for a tax extension if they meet some of the IRS' specific criteria: 

  • The IRS will automatically give you a two-month extension to submit tax returns and pay your income tax if you're a USA citizen and, on tax day, you are living and working outside the country (and Puerto Rico) or if you're in the military or navy outside of these areas. 

  • If you're serving in a combat zone, your automatic deadline for filing and paying your taxes is pushed forward 180 days after either your last day in the combat zone or your last day of combat-related hospitalization. 

  • The IRS will also give automatic extensions to people affected by natural disasters. 

Get expert financial advice  

Tax season is a busy and stressful time of year for all.  

Tax returns are due by April 15, but if you’re not ready and feeling unprepared for the deadline, you can file for a tax extension.  

If you’re feeling unprepared for tax season, it’s best to speak to an expert. This will ensure you get the best financial advice for your tax situation.  

Let Unbiased match you with the right SEC-regulated financial advisor for your needs.  

Find your financial advisor now.  


Unbiased team

Our team of writers, who have decades of experience writing about personal finance, including investing and retirement, are here to help you find out what you must know about life’s biggest financial decisions.