years, filing our taxes follows pretty much the same pattern. We
start out by assembling the various pieces of paper we'll need --
receipts, statements, W-2s and the like. Then we sit down and just
do it. We fill in the various forms, make sure it's all there --
and then click that big SEND button to get that very large monkey
off our back.
But sometimes, things just don't go as planned. We depend on our
employers and others to send us much of the information we need to
file our income taxes. And sometimes -- they just don't. Whether
it's lost in the mail, eaten by your dog or just not sent in the
first place, that vital piece of information has you stuck in Tax
Limbo until you get it.
So now what? The clock is ticking. The IRS says if your return
isn't filed by April 15, it's late (more on that later). You feel
the heat of Uncle Sam breathing down your neck and you're getting
Take a deep breath, grab a refreshing beverage, then use the
miracle of the Internet to solve your problem. It's that simple.
And it's free. Here's how.
While we're taught that the IRS tax-filing deadline of April 15
or thereabouts is iron-clad, the government actually gives us a way
out -- sort of. Any individual can file -- or e-file -- Form 4868,
an Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S.
Individual Income Tax Return, to push the due date for their return
back by as much as six months.
There is a catch, though. If you owe taxes to the IRS, payment
of any amount due is NOT extended. That's due by April 15, even if
you file an extension. You're extending the time to file, not the
time to pay. Sorry.
Our site makes filing an extension easy. Just click My
Return after logging in to your 1040.com account, and
select the blue Get a Federal Extension button you
see at right.
That will start you on the road to e-filing your federal
extension. Here, you can make a payment to the IRS (remember, your
return gets the extension, your payment doesn't …); get the mailing
address if you want to mail in your federal extension; and a link
to all the state sites if you need a state extension as well. To
continue your federal extension process, select the Edit
Extensions button at the bottom of the page.
You'll be taken to the Personal Information
screen of your return for your inspection. Make sure your contact
information -- and especially your Social Security Number -- is all
correct. Being careful here can avoid confusion, embarrassment, and
rejection by the IRS later. Click the Next button
at the bottom of the screen to continue.
If you think you'll owe tax to the IRS, the next page is where
to say that. If you expect a refund, you can click a button for
that as well. BE HONEST. If you wind up owing tax to the IRS you
will NOT get extra time to pay it without a very good reason (more
on that later, too).
If you're not sure whether you'll owe tax or not, we can help
you with that. Click the third button for our Tax Liability
At that stage, you're ready to e-file your extension. Complete
the security page and click the e-file button at the bottom to send
that federal extension flying through cyberspace to the IRS.
State extensions are filed through the individual state
Departments of Revenue, so you'll need to select your state from
the list and file through their respective web sites.
But what if your problem's a little different? What if your
return is all wrapped up, but you don't have the money to pay the
full amount of tax due?
There's no real extension for that, but the IRS does say there's
a process. First, file your return on time and pay what you can
toward the full amount of tax you owe.
If you like the idea of paying online, you can visit www.1040paytax.com where you'll have a lot of
credit or debit card options. They also have direct links to the
New York, Illinois and Kansas state payment centers.
After you've filed, the IRS will send you a bill for the balance
due. You can go online to the IRS website and apply for a payment agreement to set up a
payment schedule. Read the instructions carefully. There are
definite qualifications you must meet in order to participate.
Miss the extended filing date, and you'll be paying for it.
According to the IRS, the penalty is usually 5 percent of the
amount due for each month -- or part of a month -- that your return
is late. If the return is more than 60 days late, the
minimum penalty is $135 or the balance of the tax due
on your return, whichever is smaller.
The penalty for late payment of tax follows a similar route. The
late payment penalty is usually one-half of 1 percent of any tax
(other than estimated tax) not paid by April 15. It's charged for
every month, or part of a month, that the tax is unpaid. The
maximum penalty for late filing or late payment is 25
Even here, there's an out: You might not owe the penalty if you
have a reasonable explanation for filing late. You can attach a
statement to your return fully explaining why you filed late or
didn't pay on time.
The only taxpayers who get an automatic break on when to file,
are those who live outside the U.S. when returns are due. Those
folks get an extra 2 months to get their returns to the IRS. They
can file the 4868 to get an additional 4 months to file.
For those of us who live on this side of the Big
Pond, it's best to get those income tax returns in on time, and if
we can't, use the easy extension feature on 1040.com to give us a
little extra time! Just make sure that check to the IRS is in the