How do i get an Automatic Extension for Filing my Federal Income Tax Return

Believe it or not, there’s some circumstances where the IRS simply grants an extension automatically, without the filer having to do anything. For example, you can file two months after April 15 if where you live – and your main place of business – is outside the U.S. (and Puerto Rico), or if you’re there for military or navy service. When you file the return, just attach a statement explaining the situation to the IRS.  And obviously, this extension also covers the spouse if the return is filed jointly.  

There’s other special situations which will also extend the deadline by a few days. In 2007 the IRS granted a two-day extension to anyone who was prevented from filing by a massive storm which hit the northeastern United States, suggesting they write the words “April 16 storm” on their tax returns. And every few years there’s a special one-day extension that also applies to residents of some northeastern states. The tax-processing center in Andover, Massachusetts is closed when Massachusetts celebrates a special state holiday – Patriot’s Day. This automatically creates a one-day extension for people in the seven states which are serviced by that tax center –  Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and the District of Columbia!

Of course, you always get an extension if April 15th falls on a Saturday or a Sunday – since taxes are always due on the first weekday which falls after April 14th! But here’s a secret about the April 15th deadline: the IRS will waive it for $1.00. Deep in the fine print of form 4868, the IRS acknowledges that you don’t even have to file for an extension “if you pay part or all of your estimate of your income tax by using a credit or debit card.” You can make the payment over the phone or using the internet, and with either a credit card or a debit card. There’s just one simple rule:  “Your payment must be at least $1.00.”

But most individuals already qualify for a six-month extension, automatically – so if you don’t want to pay the $1.00, you can simply mail fill out form 4868. Its official title is “Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Tax Return,” but the nine questions are surprisingly easy. The IRS requests your name, address, and social security number, plus estimates of what you think you owe them. There’s also two check boxes, but they only cover very special circumstances – like if you’re out of the country or if you’re a non-resident. Send that to the IRS, and you’ll automatically get a six-month extension.

And if you’re out of the country when the six months expires, you can even request another two-month extension. This is described as “discretionary” – you can request it, but there’s a small chance the IRS may deny it. The most frustrating thing about this route is the IRS won’t notify you if that extension is approved. They’ll only contact you if they’re denying that extension request.