You’re running out of time to ask for a tax extension -- Here’s how to do it

So you haven’t filed your taxes yet? What have you been doing for the entire first quarter of the year?

OK, I’ll put my scolding face away. Everyone has different circumstances. That’s why tax extensions exist.

Worried about missing the deadline? In a panic about your taxes?

Read on for a quick guide on how to file an extension.

52 PHOTOS
Average tax refund in every U.S. state
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Average tax refund in every U.S. state

Texas

Average refund: $3,206

Number of refunds: 10,087,693

Total income tax refunded: $32.3 billion

Louisiana

Average refund: $3,115

Number of refunds: 1,611,412

Total income tax refunded: $5 billion

Connecticut

Average refund: $3,099

Number of refunds: 1,396,609

Total income tax refunded: $4.3 billion

Oklahoma

Average refund: $3,098

Number of refunds: 1,300,577

Total income tax refunded: $4 billion

New York

Average refund: $3,059

Number of refunds: 7,712,210

Total income tax refunded: $23.6 billion

New Jersey

Average refund: $3,013

Number of refunds: 3,479,321

Total income tax refunded: $10.5 billion

Wyoming

Average refund: $2,989

Number of refunds: 214,649

Total income tax refunded: $641.6 million

North Dakota 

Average refund: $2,983

Number of refunds: 277,422

Total income tax refunded: $827.4 million

Florida

Average refund: $2,933

Number of refunds: 7,854,538

Total income tax refunded: $23 billion

Mississippi

Average refund: $2,922

Number of refunds: 1,018,429

Total income tax refunded: $2.97 billion

California

Average refund: $2,911

Number of refunds: 13,594,703

Total income tax refunded: $39.5 billion

Washington D.C.

Average refund: $2,900

Number of refunds: 277,399

Total income tax refunded: $804.5 million

Illinois

Average refund: $2,900

Number of refunds: 4,973,653

Total income tax refunded: $14.4 billion

Maryland

Average refund: $2,861

Number of refunds: 2,329,288

Total income tax refunded: $6.7 billion

Massachusetts

Average refund: $2,850

Number of refunds: 2,704,250

Total income tax refunded: $7.7 billion

Alaska

Average refund: $2,843

Number of refunds: 276,887

Total income tax refunded: $787 million

Nevada

Average refund: $2,830

Number of refunds: 1,111,952

Total income tax refunded: $3 billion

Georgia

Average refund: $2,832

Number of refunds: 3,606,774

Total income tax refunded: $10.2 billion

Alabama

Average refund: $2,802

Number of refunds: 1,650,125

Total income tax refunded: $4.6 billion

Virginia

Average refund: $2,771

Number of refunds: 3,129,030

Total income tax refunded: $8.7 billion

Arkansas

Average refund: $2,759

Number of refunds: 989,288

Total income tax refunded: $2.7 billion

Tennessee

Average refund: $2,726

Number of refunds: 2,465,816

Total income tax refunded: $6.7 billion

Utah

Average refund: $2,681

Number of refunds: 1,033,141

Total income tax refunded: $2.8 billion

Washington

Average refund: $2,681

Number of refunds: 2,749,362

Total income tax refunded: $7.4 billion

Arizona

Average refund: $2,672

Number of refunds: 2,244,925

Total income tax refunded: $6 billion

Kansas

Average refund: $2,665

Number of refunds: 1,044,275

Total income tax refunded: $2.8 billion

New Mexico 

Average refund: $2,657

Number of refunds: 724,549

Total income tax refunded: $1.9 billion

South Dakota

Average refund: $2,651

Number of refunds: 321,372

Total income tax refunded: $852 million

West Virginia

Average refund: $2,649

Number of refunds: 649,049

Total income tax refunded: $1.7 billion

Kentucky

Average refund: $2,648

Number of refunds: 1,590,274

Total income tax refunded: $4.2 billion

Delaware

Average refund: $2,648

Number of refunds: 365,749

Total income tax refunded: $968.4 million

Rhode Island

Average refund: $2,643

Number of refunds: 436,490

Total income tax refunded: $1.1 billion

Pennsylvania

Average refund: $2,643

Number of refunds: 5,071,264

Total income tax refunded: $13.4 billion

Colorado

Average refund: $2,636

Number of refunds: 2,014,233

Total income tax refunded: $5.3 billion

North Carolina

Average refund: $2,629

Number of refunds: 3,580,471

Total income tax refunded: $9.4 billion

Nebraska

Average refund: $2,615

Number of refunds: 711,103

Total income tax refunded: $1.8 billion

Indiana

Average refund: $2,612

Number of refunds: 2,577,994

Total income tax refunded: $6.7 billion

Iowa

Average refund: $2,602

Number of refunds: 1,141,151

Total income tax refunded: $3 billion

New Hampshire

Average refund: $2,602

Number of refunds: 558,359

Total income tax refunded: $1.4 billion

Missouri

Average refund: $2,601

Number of refunds: 2,220,029

Total income tax refunded: $5.7 billion

South Carolina

Average refund: $2,569

Number of refunds: 1,719,299

Total income tax refunded: $4.4 billion

Hawaii

Average refund: $2,564

Number of refunds: 535,763

Total income tax refunded: $1.4 billion

Michigan

Average refund: $2,560

Number of refunds: 3,776,668

Total income tax refunded: $9.7 billion

Ohio

Average refund: $2,517

Number of refunds: 4,570,589

Total income tax refunded: $11.5 billion

Minnesota

Average refund: $2,516

Number of refunds: 2,112,212

Total income tax refunded: $5.3 billion

Idaho

Average refund: $2,457

Number of refunds: 561,133

Total income tax refunded: $1.4 billion

Wisconsin

Average refund: $2,436

Number of refunds: 2,236,886

Total income tax refunded: $5.4 billion

Montana

Average refund: $2,401

Number of refunds: 372,817

Total income tax refunded: $895 million

Oregon

Average refund: $2,398

Number of refunds: 1,431,924

Total income tax refunded: $3.4 billion

Vermont

Average refund: $2,392

Number of refunds: 254,192

Total income tax refunded: $608 million

Maine

Average refund: $2,336

Number of refunds: 509,896

Total income tax refunded: $1.2 billion

Average tax refund by state
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How to File for a Tax Extension

You can’t get an extension unless you ask, and you have to do it before tax day!

Asking for an extension gives you an extra six months to file your tax return.

10 PHOTOS
10 states with the highest income tax
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10 states with the highest income tax

10. Wisconsin

Personal income tax rate: 7.65%

9. New York

Personal income tax rate: 8.82%

8. Washington D.C. 

Personal income tax rate: 8.95%

7. Vermont

Personal income tax rate: 8.95%

6. New Jersey

Personal income tax rate: 8.97%

5. Iowa

Personal income tax rate: 8.98%

4. Minnesota

Personal income tax rate: 9.85%

3. Oregon

Personal income tax rate: 9.9%

2. Hawaii

Personal income tax rate: 11%

1. California

Personal income tax rate: 13.3%

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IRS Form 4868 is the magic ticket to a (temporary) reprieve from dealing with your tax return.

The extension request form doesn’t ask why you want an extension. You’ll estimate your tax liability for the year, input your payments (if you made any) and calculate any balance you have due to Uncle Sam.

The IRS also allows you to file for an extension for free using TaxSlayer, TurboTax or a number of otherfree filing software options it lists online.

Guess What: You Still Have to Pay

The bummer? Filing for an extension doesn’t give you more time to pay any taxes you have due. Those payments are still due April 15 — or you’ll incur fees and penalties.

Quick Sidebar on Interest and Fees, Because I Know You’re Wondering

Usually, the IRS explains, the late payment penalty is half of 1% of unpaid taxes after April 15. The IRS charges this penalty monthly and caps it at 25% of the amount of unpaid taxes. But if you pay more than 60 days late, you’re also on the hook for a minimum penalty of $210 or 100% of the taxes owed — whichever is less.

Yikes.

When you file for an extension online, you’ll have the option to pay all or part of your estimated income tax due. If you don’t pay in full right away, you’ll accrue interest on any tax owed.

Interest on your unpaid taxes starts to accrue April 15, even if you have the two-month extension for being out of the country. The IRS’ interest rate is 3% plus the federal short-term rate, which the IRS updates quarterly — the interest compounds daily.

“The interest runs until you pay the tax,” Form 4868 warns. “Even if you had a good reason for not paying on time, you will still owe interest.”

(Yes, that is the IRS mean-mugging you through a form.)

If you want an extension and make an electronic payment before the regular tax deadline, you don’t have to file Form 4868 to formally request an extension. You’ll automatically get an extension when you make that partial or full payment through IRS Direct Pay and select “extension” from the “Reason For Payment” drop-down menu.

If you prefer to pay via credit or debit card through the Electronic Federal Payment System, you can get the automatic extension by selecting “extension” in the “Tax Type” menu.

The IRS says it will only contact you if it denies your old-fashioned, paper-submitted request.

There is a way to avoid a late payment penalty if you wait to pay your taxes when you file your extended return.

When you file your return, you can attach a statement explaining the reason you didn’t pay on time, according to the instructions for Form 4868. If you satisfy both of the following conditions when you complete your tax return, the IRS is likely to waive your penalty:

  • You pay at least 90% of the total tax on your return before the due date via withholding, estimated tax payments, or payments you made when filing for your extension, and
  • You pay the remaining balance when you file your return.

What if You’re Out of the Country?

If you’re a U.S. citizen or resident who’s out of the country at tax time, you automatically get an extra two months to file your tax return — no need to file an extension. Need more time? File an extension with Form 4868 or through one of the e-filing options, and you’ll get an additional four months to complete your return.

But the payment rules are the same for world travelers: If you’ll owe taxes but don’t make a payment before April 15, you’ll have to pay interest like the rest of us.

The key to surviving tax season, whether you started crunching numbers in January or are still hyperventilating while reading this article, is this:

Don’t hide from the IRS. Most of us pay taxes and share the task of filing tax returns. And just about everyone has questions about how to do it right — and what to do if you feel like you’re in financial trouble at tax time. The worst move is to pretend your problem doesn’t exist and hope you fly under the radar.

Don’t be afraid to call the IRS with your questions or concerns: Its agents have heard everything. I promise.

Lisa Rowan is a former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

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