Topic 304 - Extensions of Time to File Your Tax Return

There are three ways to request an automatic extension of time to file your U.S. individual income tax return. The request for extension of time to file must be made by the regular due date of your return to avoid the penalty for filing late. An extension of time to file is not an extension of time to pay.

You may file your extension in any one of three ways listed below:

  1. Pay all or part of your estimated income tax due and indicate that the payment is for an extension using Direct Pay on IRS.gov, the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) at EFTPS.gov, or using a credit or debit card (see Pay your Taxes by Debit or Credit Card on IRS.gov). You will receive a confirmation number for your records.
  2. E-file Form 4868 (PDF), Application For Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Tax Return, using your personal computer or through a tax professional.
  3. File a paper Form 4868 and enclose payment of your estimate of tax due. Note: Fiscal year taxpayers must file a paper Form 4868.

If you file the Form 4868 electronically, be sure to have a copy of your prior year's return; - you will be asked to provide your prior year's adjusted gross income (AGI) amount for verification purposes. Once you file, you will receive an electronic acknowledgement that the IRS has accepted your filing. Keep this for your records. You should refer to your tax software or tax professional for ways to file and pay electronically using e-file services. Several companies offer free filing of Form 4868 through the Free File program that you can access on IRS.gov.

You are allowed two extra months (generally, until June 15) to file your return and pay any tax due without requesting an extension if you are a U.S. citizen or resident alien and on the regular due date of your return, you are either:

  1. living outside of the United States and Puerto Rico, and your main place of business or post of duty is outside of the United States and Puerto Rico, or
  2. in military or naval service on duty outside of the United States and Puerto Rico.

For additional information, refer to Publication 54, Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad. If you use this automatic 2-month extension, you must attach a statement to your return explaining which of the two situations qualify you for the extension. You will still have to pay interest on any tax not paid by the regular due date of your return. If you need the additional 4 months, file Form 4868 (PDF) and be sure to check the box on line 8 to indicate that you need an additional 4 months to file your return. The additional 4 month period is not an extension of time to pay.

For information regarding State Government filing, visit State Government Websites on IRS.gov.

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Page Last Reviewed or Updated: May 19, 2015