your tax return, IRS — May 11, 2021

Need More Time? File a Tax Extension and Get 6 Months to File

by Susannah McQuitty

Do you need more time? graphic with clocks

Tax Day is May 17, so it’s time to kick things into high gear—unless that time crunch make you feel a bit panicked. Whether you need more time for tax forms to arrive, paperwork to be finished, or whatever else could prevent you from filing by May 17, a tax extension could be just what you need.

What’s a tax-filing extension?

A tax extension gives you extra time to file your tax return, and your new deadline becomes October 15 (unless that’s a weekend or holiday, but it’s the 15th in 2021). It’s called an automatic extension, but technically it isn’t automatic—you do have to e-file a form to request the extension (which you can do easily on by logging in and selecting the Extension button).

Do I get extra time to pay my taxes if I file a tax extension?

That’s a no—tax extensions only give you more time to file, not to pay. That may seem backward (why would you get an extension but still pay on time?), but think of it this way: Some people may have a pretty good idea of what they’ll owe, but either need more time to get their paperwork in order or are still waiting on documents to arrive.

The penalty fee for paying late is much lower than the penalty for filing late too, so even if you aren’t able to pay by the deadline, go ahead and file an extension anyway to minimize the overall penalty.

How can I find out my taxes owed without filing a tax return?

Filing your tax return lets you know exactly what you owe, but if you’re waiting to file, paying at least 90% of your taxes owed by the deadline will protect you from the failure-to-pay penalty, as long as you deliver the rest when you file later.

Maybe that doesn’t sound helpful, either—how do you pay 90% of a number you don’t know? You can complete as much of your return as possible with to make an educated guess–it’s free to get started and enter data, so you have the freedom to mock up your return with the information you have available (just don’t file it yet!). You could also use our free Tax Estimator to get an idea of what you owe, or you can look at your prior-year tax return and pay 100% of the taxes you paid last year. If you overpay by accident, you’ll get that back in a refund when you file.

Will I get penalized for filing late if I get a refund?

Good news if you’re getting a refund: There is no failure to file or failure to pay penalty. You’ll just be delaying how soon you get that refund (and if you delay longer than three years, you’ll have to bid it goodbye forever).

Does filing an extension cost extra?

Not when you file with! Filing an extension is free—so you can file an extension now for no charge and then come back any time between now and October 15 to get your return finished and filed for our flat rate of $25. All it takes is signing up or logging in at!

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