There are millions of stressed out families running about right now trying to file their state and federal taxes by the April 15 deadline. But did you know that April 15 isn’t the real deadline for filing your tax return? If you’re scrambling to fill out your 1040 or Schedule C, take a big breath and relax…just a little.
I have plenty of experience filing for extensions. I’d planned on filling all of my taxes today, but I couldn’t put my finger on a couple of important documents. I did have enough information to figure out what I owed however. This meant I could pay my taxes electronically via TurboTax and file for an automatic extension.
As Josh Smith explained earlier this afternoon, you can get an extra six months by simply filing for an extension using an online service like TurboTax. You can also fill out form 4868 (click here to view/download) using Adobe Acrobat Reader, print it and bring it to any post office that’s open late for tax day. Your tax return, or your extension, is considered on-time as long as you get it postmarked by 11:59PM local time tonight. You can find post offices with extended hours at usps.com/tax.
Filing for an extension means that you have until October 15 to track down all of your W2’s, 1099’s, receipts and so on. It does not however mean that you have an extension to pay your taxes. If you’re certain that the government owes you a tax refund you simply need to send in your extension. If you owe Uncle Sam a few bucks (or several thousand), it’s your responsibility to send a check along with your form 4868. If you are paying online with TurboTax, or a similar service, you can pay with your checking or savings account. All you need is your bank account number and your bank’s routing number.
Some states require you to file for an extension, but several others will grant you an automatic extension if you don’t file by April 15. California (where I live) is one such state that does not require a form for an extension.
If you aren’t owed a significant amount of money from the state or federal government and you haven’t filled out all of your forms yet, you may be better off waiting until the dust settles to send in your forms. While services like TurboTax are generally reliable, there have been complaints in years’ past about online tax services slowing to a crawl on tax day. Lines at the post office can be long and at this point it’s just about impossible to get your banker, tax adviser, accountant or an IRS agent on the phone to help you out. All of these professionals will be much more eager to help you with your tax questions in the middle of summer, when business is slow and they can devote their full attention to your needs.
Now just because you can procrastinate once and skip the April 15 deadline, don’t procrastinate twice. If you file for the automatic extension you have until 11:59PM on October 15 to file all of your tax forms. That date can sneak up on you since relatively few people are talking about taxes in fall. That’s exactly what happened to me last year and I had to scramble to get my taxes together. I submitted my tax forms via TurboTax at literally the last possible minute – 11:59 PM on October 15.