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Tax Extension: What It Is and How It Works

A tax extension moves your federal tax-filing deadline out six months to Oct. 15. The deadline for requesting an extension for 2024 was April 15.
Tina Orem
Sabrina Parys
By Sabrina Parys and  Tina Orem 
Updated
Edited by Chris Hutchison

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If the tax deadline snuck up on you, you're not alone. The IRS estimated that 19 million taxpayers would file for automatic extensions this year

.

Requesting a tax extension is relatively straightforward — as long as you were mindful of the April 15 cut-off date.

Taxpayers were able to file for an extension electronically or when making an estimated tax payment. Extension requests could also be mailed in.

What is a tax extension?

A tax extension is a request for an additional six months to file a tax return with the IRS. In 2024, an extension moved the filing deadline from April 15 to Oct. 15.

Filing a tax extension can help people who may be missing important tax documents or who need extra time to complete their paperwork. It can also help filers avoid a late-filing penalty.

When is the 2024 tax extension deadline?

The last day to submit a tax extension request for 2023 income tax returns was Monday, April 15, 2024. If a tax return is filed after this date without a valid extension attached to it, the IRS considers the return late. Penalties and fees will start to accrue if you have a tax bill.

If you are an American citizen living abroad, the federal deadline to file either your 2023 income tax return or to request a four-month extension is June 17, 2024

.

How tax extensions work

A common misconception about tax extensions is that they buy you additional time to pay your tax bill. In reality, a tax extension only pushes out your filing deadline, not your payment due date.

Even if you filed for an extension, taxes owed were still due by April 15. If you need more time to deal with a tax bill, the IRS offers payment plans that can help you pay off your balance in increments over time.

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How to file a tax extension

There are several options for requesting a free tax extension, including e-filing Form 4868 or making an estimated tax payment by the tax deadline.

  • Tax software: If you plan 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. The IRS will send you an electronic acknowledgment when you submit the form.

  • Tax preparer: If you plan to work with a CPA or other tax preparer, ask 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 through the Postal Service. Make sure to get proof that you mailed it, and note that it must have been postmarked by April 15.

  • Direct Pay: Because a tax extension only gives you more time to file, not more time to pay, it's a good idea to estimate your taxes owed and make a payment along with your extension request. IRS Direct Pay allows you to note that you're requesting an extension while you're making that payment, which does away with you having to submit Form 4868 altogether.

How tax extensions work if you owe taxes

If you couldn't file your return by the tax filing deadline, in addition to getting an extension, the IRS suggests you estimate your tax bill and submit a payment as soon as possible. That's because anything you owe after the deadline is subject to interest and a late-payment penalty.

You might be able to catch a break on the penalty if you paid at least 90% of your taxes owed by the deadline and pay the rest when you file your return. You can estimate your tax liability by using the Estimated Tax Worksheet on Form 1040-ES or using tax software

Internal Revenue Service. 2024 1040-ES. Accessed Jan 31, 2024.
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If you can't afford the entire tax bill, the IRS recommends paying what you can to limit those fees.

How tax extensions work if you're due a refund

The IRS does not impose a failure-to-file penalty on tax returns that are filed late if you're due a refund. However, filing a tax extension anyway could be a good idea. For example, if you miscalculate and end up with a tax bill, a tax extension will get you out of that late-filing penalty.

How many tax extensions can you file?

Generally, you can't request more than one tax extension per return.

How much does a tax extension cost?

Nothing. Taxpayers could file a tax extension for free through IRS Free File up until April 15.

Tax extensions for overseas taxpayers and military members

Some people don’t need to worry about applying for tax extensions, 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. If you need additional time beyond two months, you need to file for an extension by June 17, 2024, to extend your filing deadline to October.

  • People living in state counties affected by certain natural disasters may automatically get more time, too.

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

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What happens after you file a tax extension?

You still have to file your final return by Oct. 15, 2024. If you miss the October due date,penalties will accrue.

How do you file a state tax extension?

The rules for requesting a state tax extension can vary. In some states, you might have to file an additional form, while in others, it might be automatically granted. In certain states, a federal tax extension also serves as a state extension. Illinois, for example, automatically extends the state tax return deadline to mid-October if a person's federal tax extension is approved.

Your state's tax department is the easiest way to determine your state income tax deadline and how to file for a state tax extension.

Which states have tax deadline extensions?

Several states have received extended federal tax filing deadlines due to FEMA-declared natural disasters. The extension applies to federal filing and payment due dates for individual income, business, and quarterly tax filings.

As a rule of thumb, only people and businesses established in the counties the IRS recognizes as affected by the disaster are eligible for this relief.

If you weren't able to meet your tax filing obligation on time because your preparer lives in the affected county, or if the paperwork you needed to complete your return was located in the disaster area, you may also be eligible. See the IRS disaster relief page for more details

Internal Revenue Service. FAQs for Disaster Victims. Accessed Jun 3, 2024.
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States and territories with extended deadlines

State or territory

Affected counties

Extended tax filing deadline

Alaska

Wrangell Cooperative Association of Alaska Tribal Nation.

July 15, 2024.

California

San Diego County.

June 17, 2024.

Connecticut

New London County and the tribal nations of Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot.

June 17, 2024.

Hawaii

Maui and Hawaii counties.

Aug. 7, 2024.

Iowa

Clarke, Harrison, Mills, Polk, Pottawattamie, Ringgold, Shelby, and Union counties.

Oct. 15, 2024.*

Iowa

Adair, Montgomery, Polk, and Story counties.

Nov. 1, 2024.*

Kentucky

Boyd, Carter, Fayette, Greenup, Henry, Jefferson, Jessamine, Mason, Oldham, Union and Whitley counties.

Nov. 1, 2024.

Maine

Androscoggin, Franklin, Hancock, Kennebec, Oxford, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Somerset, Waldo and Washington counties.

June 17, 2024.

Maine

Cumberland, Hancock, Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc, Waldo, Washington and York counties.

July 15, 2024.

Massachusetts

Bristol and Worcester counties.

July 31, 2024.

Michigan

Eaton, Ingham, Ionia, Kent, Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland and Wayne counties.

June 17, 2024.

Nebraska

Douglas and Washington counties.

Sept. 3, 2024.*

Ohio

Auglaize, Crawford, Darke, Delaware, Hancock, Licking, Logan, Mercer, Miami, Richland and Union counties.

Sept. 3, 2024.

Oklahoma

Carter, Cotton, Hughes, Johnston, Kay, Lincoln, Love, Murray, Okfuskee, Okmulgee, Osage, Pittsburg, Pontotoc, Pottawatomie, Tillman, Washington, and Washita counties.

Sept. 3, 2024.*

Rhode Island

Providence County.

June 17, 2024.

Rhode Island

Kent, Providence and Washington counties.

July 15, 2024.

Tennessee

Cheatham, Davidson, Dickson, Gibson, Montgomery, Robertson, Stewart and Sumner and Weakley counties.

June 17, 2024.

Texas

Calhoun, Collin, Cooke, Denton, Eastland, Guadalupe, Hardin, Harris, Jasper, Jones, Lamar, Liberty, Montague, Montgomery, Polk, San Jacinto, Trinity, Walker and Waller counties.

Nov. 1, 2024.*

Washington

Spokane County.

June 17, 2024.

West Virginia

Boone, Calhoun, Clay, Harrison and Kanawha counties.

June 17, 2024.

West Virginia

Boone, Brooke, Cabell, Fayette, Hancock, Kanawha, Lincoln, Marshall, Nicholas, Ohio, Preston, Putnam, Tyler, Wayne and Wetzel counties.

Nov. 1, 2024.

Israel, Gaza or the West Bank

N/A.

Oct. 7, 2024.

*Not applicable tax returns due in April 2024. See the IRS website for more details and applicable dates.

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