Tax Extensions 2023: How and When to Get One

File IRS Form 4868 — but remember that getting an extension doesn't give you more time to actually pay your taxes.
Tina Orem
Sabrina Parys
By Sabrina Parys and  Tina Orem 
Edited by Chris Hutchison
How to file a tax extension online

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If you haven't quite got it all together by the time tax day rolls around, there's no shame in requesting an extension to file from the IRS. The key is remembering that an extension gives you additional time to file, not more time to pay.

What is a tax extension?

A tax extension is a request for additional time to file your federal income tax return with the IRS. In 2023, a tax extension moves your tax-filing deadline to Oct. 16, 2023. If you think you'll owe taxes when submit your return, filing a tax extension can help you to avoid incurring a late-filing penalty.

How tax extensions work

A common misconception about tax extensions is that they give you more time to pay your tax bill. In reality, extensions push out your filing deadline, not your tax bill due date. If you need more time to deal with a tax bill, the IRS offers payment plans that can help you to pay off your balance in increments over time.

Filing an extension can be helpful for people who may be missing important tax documents or who need extra time to get their paperwork together. Regardless of your extension request, the IRS still expects you to submit a payment by April 18, 2023, if you owe taxes.

  • If you owe: If you can’t file your return by the April 18 deadline, in addition to requesting an extension, you need to estimate your tax bill and pay as much of that as possible at that time. Anything you owe after the deadline is subject to interest and a late-payment penalty, but you might be able to catch a break on the late-payment penalty if you’ve ended up paying at least 90% of your actual tax liability by the deadline and you pay the rest with your return. You can estimate your liability by using the Estimated Tax Worksheet on Form 1040-ES or using tax software.

    2022 Form 1040-ES. Internal Revenue Service. Accessed Mar 13, 2023.

  • If you're expecting a refund: The IRS does not impose a failure-to-file penalty on tax returns that are filed late if there is a refund due. However, it can be a good idea to file a tax extension anyway if you need some extra time to get your documents straightened out. For example, if you miscalculated and end up with a tax bill, a tax extension will get you out of the late-filing penalty.

When do I need to file a tax extension by?

Tax day, April 18, 2023, is the last day to submit a request for an income tax extension. This gets you until Oct. 16, 2023, to file your tax return. You cannot request more than one tax extension per return.

How to file a tax extension

You can get a tax extension by filing Form 4868 electronically or sending it via mail by April 18, 2023. Here are a few common ways to file one:

  • IRS Free File: The IRS partners with a nonprofit organization called the Free File Alliance to provide people who make less than a certain adjusted gross income access to free, name-brand tax-prep software. Anybody — even people above the income threshold — can use Free File to file an extension online.

  • Tax software: If you're planning to use tax software, most providers support filing Form 4868 for tax extensions. You can simply follow the program’s instructions and see how to file a tax extension electronically that way. The IRS will send you an electronic acknowledgment when you submit the form.

  • Tax preparer: If you plan to work with a tax pro or a tax preparer, ask to see if they can file for an extension on your behalf.

  • By mail: You can apply for a tax extension on paper by filling out Form 4868 and sending it to the IRS via snail mail. Make sure to get proof that you mailed it, though.

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Tax extensions for overseas taxpayers and military members

Some people don’t necessarily need to worry about applying for tax extensions at all. Because they automatically get more time if they meet certain criteria.

  • If you’re a U.S. citizen or resident who lived and worked outside of the country on the tax-filing deadline, you may automatically get two extra months to file your return and pay any amount due without having to request a tax extension.

  • People affected by certain natural disasters may automatically get more time, too (the time varies; check the list of qualifying disasters).

  • Some members of the military also get extra time automatically, depending on where they are and what they’re doing.

  • Federal: $24.95 to $64.95. Free version available for simple tax returns only.

  • State: $39.95 to $44.95.

  • All filers get access to Xpert Assist for free.

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  • Federal: $55 to $110. Free version available for simple tax returns only.

  • State: $0 to $45 per state.

  • Online Assist add-on gets you on-demand tax help.

  • Federal: $59 to $119. Free version available for simple returns only; not all taxpayers qualify.

  • State: $0 to $59 per state.

  • Live Assisted Basic is free through March 31.

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  • Federal: $29.95 to $59.95 Free version available for simple tax returns only.

  • State: $0 to $39.95 per state.

  • On-demand tax help at Premium and Self-Employed tiers.

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Remember to file by the October deadline

Requesting an extension and making an estimated payment is only half the work. You still have to file your final return. If you don't file by the Oct. 16 extension deadline, the penalties could get worse.

Frequently asked questions

A tax extension gives you six additional months — until Oct. 16, 2023 — to file your federal tax return. You can file a tax extension for free by submitting Form 4868 to the IRS by April 18, 2023.

You can file for one automatic six-month tax extension to extend your federal tax return filing deadline to Oct. 16, 2023.

The IRS does not impose penalties on late tax returns with refunds due. For late returns with taxes owed, the IRS levies a failure-to-file penalty, which can go up to 25% of your unpaid tax bill.

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