Can't File Your Tax Return by Midnight? Here's How to File a Tax Extension

Today's the last day to file your tax return on time. An extension gives you six more months and avoids late penalties.

Income tax returns are due tonight by midnight in your local time zone. That means it's your last day to submit your return and file your taxes on time to receive a prompt tax refund. 

Letting the deadline pass will slow down your refund and could lead to fines and penalties if you owe money.

If it isn't possible to file your tax return by tonight's deadline, you'll want to file a tax extension to give yourself another six months. Along with completing your tax return, online tax software can also help you file a tax extension.

While an extension provides extra time to file your return, most tax experts advise against it unless you're missing necessary tax information or simply unable to file taxes because of illness, travel or other conditions. 

Read on to learn how to file a tax extension and to find out more about the money you could be delaying if you do. For more, here's how to file your taxes for free and track your IRS tax refund after you file. 

If you're planning to file a tax extension this year, you'll need to submit Form 4868 (PDF) to the IRS either by paper or electronically using e-file before the April 18 deadline. 

Note that you'll still have to pay all or part of your estimated income tax due using Direct Pay, the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System or using a debit or credit card, and note that you're filing for an extension.

Some taxpayers are automatically granted more time to file. This includes military personnel who are serving in a combat zone or persons in federally declared disaster areas. US citizens who live outside the country have until June 15 to file.

No. Extending your filing deadline doesn't delay when you have to pay taxes that you may owe. According to the IRS, you need to estimate and pay at least 90% of your tax liability by the deadline to avoid late fees. 

Otherwise, you will have accrued interest on what you owe, which you'll eventually have to pay -- plus possible penalties -- on top of your income taxes. 

The late-payment penalty is usually 0.5% per month of the outstanding tax not paid by the filing deadline, maxing out at 25%. 

The IRS can also issue a late-filing penalty of 5% of the amount due for every month or partial month your tax return is late. If your return is filed more than 60 days after the due date, the minimum late-filing penalty is either $435 or 100% of the unpaid tax (whichever is less). 

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