If you plan on getting a tax extension this year, be sure to keep the tax extension deadline (October 15) on your calendar. A tax extension gives you until then to file your tax return. It's not an extension of time to pay your taxes — those are still due in May. You file IRS Form 4868 to get a tax extension.
Here’s how the tax extension deadline works.
Does the tax extension deadline apply to me?
If you file IRS Form 4868 on or before the May 17, 2021, filing deadline, the tax extension deadline gives you until Oct. 15 — an extra three months — to file your tax return.
If you don't file IRS Form 4868 on or before the May 17 tax-filing deadline, and you don't file your tax return either, your taxes are likely going to be very, very late in the eyes of the IRS. The IRS can assess interest on your outstanding tax bill, as well as failure-to-file penalties and failure-to-pay penalties.
Some people automatically get more time.
» MORE: How to make a payment to the IRS
What happens if I miss the October tax extension deadline?
You’ll owe more interest. A tax extension gives you more time to file your return, not more time to pay.
You may owe a higher late-payment penalty. The IRS' late-payment penalty normally is 0.5% per month of the outstanding tax not paid by the filing deadline. The maximum penalty is 25%. You're supposed to pay at least 90% of your tax liability by the regular filing deadline.
You may owe a late-filing penalty. The IRS can also sock you with a late-filing penalty of 5% of the amount due for every month or partial month your tax return is late. The maximum penalty is 25% of the amount due.
How can I get an extension for my next tax return?
If you already know you’ll need more time to do your taxes in 2021, be sure to file IRS Form 4868 on or before the tax filing deadline, which is May 17.
Again, getting an extension does not give you more time to pay taxes you owe — it only gives you more time to file your tax return. When you file for an extension, you can estimate what you owe and send some or all of that with your extension request. If the estimated payment ends up being less than what you actually owe, you’ll likely need to pay interest on the difference. The longer that’s outstanding, the more interest you may rack up.
Don’t blow off filing just because you can’t pay the bill. The IRS offers installment plans if you can’t pay your taxes.