Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.
What is IRS Form 4868?
Form 4868, also known as an “Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return,” is a form that taxpayers can file with the IRS if they need more time to finish their tax returns.
A successful application extends the filing deadline by six months in a typical tax year. It can be filed electronically or by mail.
Keep in mind that the cut-off date to submit Form 4868 is tax day, which is usually in mid-April. If you miss the deadline, your chance to ask for an extension expires and the IRS will consider your tax return late.
How does Form 4868 work?
Contrary to how it may sound, a tax extension won’t grant you more time to pay or deal with your tax bill. Submitting Form 4868 merely informs the agency that your tax return (typically Form 1040 and any related paperwork) will arrive late.
If you will owe taxes, you’ll need to estimate your tax bill and submit an estimated payment by tax day along with your extension request.
Your estimated payment should cover at least 90% of what you owe, and the remaining amount needs to be paid when you file your return. If your estimated payment doesn’t cover at least 90% of your liability, the IRS will charge interest and a late-payment penalty on the outstanding balance once tax day passes.
How much extra time does Form 4868 give you?
Form 4868 extends your tax-filing deadline by six months, from mid-April to mid-October. The IRS generally doesn’t permit additional extensions beyond the initial six months.
However, if you’re living abroad, serving in the military, or residing where a federally declared disaster occurred, you may be eligible for an automatic extension.
» Several states have extended federal tax-filing deadlines this year. See if you're eligible
Tax extension running out? Get it done with NerdWallet
Our user-friendly tool makes filing taxes simple. By registering for a NerdWallet account, you'll have access to our tax product in partnership with Column Tax for a flat rate of $50, credit score tracking, personalized recommendations, timely alerts, and more.
Should I file Form 4868?
There are many reasons to consider filing Form 4868. The most common one is simply needing more time to collect paperwork. Other reasons include:
You, your CPA or your tax preparer won’t be able to finish your tax return by the deadline.
You cannot file on time because of a significant life, medical or travel event.
You want to avoid incurring a failure-to-file penalty.
You are self-employed and want extra time to set up a SEP plan, which you may fund until the tax extension deadline. Solo 401(ks) and SIMPLE plans can also be funded until the extension deadline.
Regardless of which scenarios apply, along with filing for an extension, make sure to still pay an estimate of your taxes owed.
When not to file Form 4868
Filing Form 4868 doesn't make sense if you’re putting off your return because you can’t afford the tax bill. A tax extension request won’t give you more time to figure out that payment, so the longer you wait to file or pay after tax day passes, the more interest and penalties accumulate.
If you can’t afford a tax bill, try to file on time, pay as much as you can, and look into the many options available for payment, including IRS payment plans.
Who can file Form 4868?
Most taxpayers can file Form 4868 to request an automatic six-month tax-filing extension. Per the agency, you don’t need to give a reason for requesting an extension, but if your request is denied, the IRS will contact you to let you know why.
How to file Form 4868
There are several ways to submit Form 4868.
By paper: Taxpayers can file Form 4868 by mail, but remember to get your request in the mail by tax day.
Electronically: IRS Free File, IRS Free Fillable Forms, or tax-prep software can help you e-file your extension.
When you pay estimated taxes: This third option does away with the paperwork. When you pay your estimated tax bill using an IRS payment method such as Direct Pay, Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), or by credit or debit, you can indicate that the payment is for an extension.
» MORE: 10 ways to make an IRS payment
What information goes on Form 4868?
Form 4868 asks you to supply basic information, such as your name, address, Social Security number or individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN). If you owe taxes, you’ll also need to include an estimate of that bill and the amount of payment you’re making.
You can estimate your taxes by referencing how much you owed last year if your income has not changed drastically. You can also estimate your taxes using a tax calculator or tax-prep software. However, working with a tax pro, or using IRS Form 1040-ES, may ensure a closer estimate.
What is the cost of filing Form 4868?
You can file Form 4868 by mailing the paper extension, requiring you to cover the postage cost. You can also file the form for free using IRS Free Fillable Forms online. Several IRS Free File providers offer taxpayers free electronic extension filing, regardless of income level.
If you’re already committed to a particular tax-prep software, many brand-name providers also offer free extension filing, but they may collect fees for the service the closer you are to the tax-filing deadline.
Where to download Form 4868
If you’re using tax software, most programs will help you fill out the form, tally your estimated taxes, and e-file the form along with payment.
If you’re submitting a paper form, you can download and print it directly from the IRS website.
Where to send a paper Form 4868
Filing a paper extension by mail requires a few additional steps. Once your form is ready, mail it to your state's applicable IRS or Treasury Department address.
If you’re sending in a payment with your request extension, the check or money order should be made out to the “United States Treasury” and be sure to include your Social Security number, phone number, as well as a note that lists the tax year and what the check is for (e.g., 2022 Form 4868).
The IRS doesn't accept cash payments for paper extensions. For more information, see the instructions to Form 4868.
Don’t forget about the Form 4868 deadline
Knowing you’ve bought yourself a few extra months to file can bring relief, but don’t forget to mark your calendar with that new mid-October deadline. If you miss the tax extension deadline, the IRS won’t offer additional options and those fees and penalties will begin to pile up.
On a similar note...