Filing for an extension of time

If you can't meet the April 15 deadline to file your tax return, you can get a four-month extension of time from the IRS. The extension will give you extra time to get the paperwork in to the IRS, but it does not extend the time you have to pay any tax due. You will owe interest on any amounts not paid by the April deadline, plus a late payment penalty if you have paid less than 90 percent of your total tax by that date.

To get the automatic extension, file Form 4868, Application for Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, with the IRS by the April 15 deadline, or make an extension-related electronic payment. You can also file your extension request by phone or by computer instead of using the paper Form 4868.

The IRS has a special toll-free phone line for people to request extensions by telephone. The number is 1-888-796-1074. It is available weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., local time (except in Hawaii and Alaska, which should use Pacific Time). Use Form 4868 as a worksheet to prepare for the call and have a copy of your 2002 tax return.

You may also e-file an extension request using tax preparation software on your own computer or by going to a tax preparer. Those filing by computer get an acknowledgment that the IRS has received their request.

If you ask for an extension by phone or computer, you can choose to pay any expected balance due by authorizing an electronic funds withdrawal from a checking or savings account. You will need the appropriate bank routing and account numbers for the account. You must also have the adjusted gross income from your 2002 return to verify your identity.

If your return is completed but you are unable to pay the tax due, do not request an extension. File your return on time and pay as much as you can.

The IRS will send you a bill or notice for the balance due. Request either when you file the return or when you get the bill. The IRS will charge interest and penalties on the unpaid balance. There is a $43 fee to set up an installment agreement.

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