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How to File a Tax Extension in 2024

What Is a Tax Extension?
How Does a Tax Extension Work?
How Do I File a Tax Extension?
When Should You File a Tax Extension?
What’s the Penalty for Not Filing My Taxes on Time?
What’s the Penalty for Not Paying My Taxes on Time?
Having Trouble Doing Your Taxes?

So, you got your W-2 and a few other statements in February and thought, Meh, I’ll do my taxes later. Or maybe you put off doing your taxes because you were missing an important document. March flew by and, before you knew it, Tax Day was looming.

If that’s you, you might need to file a tax extension. Not sure what that even means or how it works? Don’t worry. We’ve got the full scoop on everything you need to know about tax extensions.


Key Takeaways

  • A tax extension gives you six extra months to file your tax return, but it does not give you extra time to pay your taxes.
  • To file an extension, you’ll need to fill out Form 4868 and send it to the IRS by Tax Day (that’s April 15 for 2024).
  • If you owe taxes and don’t file your return on time, you’ll face late penalties of 5% of what you owe per month, up to 25%. Plus, you’ll be charged interest! So, make sure you file an extension.

What Is a Tax Extension?

Simply put, a tax extension gives you six extra months to file your taxes. So, instead of your tax return being due on Tax Day (for 2024, that’s April 15), it’ll be due October 15.1 Just in time for a pumpkin spice latte (okay, let’s face it—pumpkin spice everything).

And there’s more good news: Filing a tax extension is free! It just takes a little bit of time to fill out the form to request an extension.

Fair warning, though: You might be thinking that an extension will give you six extra months to pay your taxes, but unfortunately that’s not the case. An extension might be free, but it does not buy you more time to pay if you owe Uncle Sam. Bummer!

But even if you can’t pay a dime of your taxes by Tax Day, you should still file an extension. The penalty for not filing your taxes is a lot more severe than filing and paying late.

So don’t get discouraged and procrastinate on this or ignore it altogether. Pay as much of your bill as you can, and if you still can’t afford to pay your tax bill after six months, look into setting up a payment plan with the IRS.

How Does a Tax Extension Work?

A tax extension does one simple thing—it pushes out your filing deadline. And that can be super helpful if April 15 is coming at you faster than a speeding bullet and you’re still waiting on tax documents or just haven’t been able to file yet.

Now, if you owe taxes, they’re still due on Tax Day . . . even with an extension. And if you don’t pay by the original tax filing deadline, you’ll rack up late-payment penalties (0.5% of your tax bill each month, up to a maximum penalty of 25%) and interest.2 Yikes!

But filing an extension can help you avoid the big failure-to-file penalty, which is 5% of your unpaid tax bill every month, up to a max of 25%.3 That’s why it’s always best to file an extension, even if you know you can’t pay by Tax Day.

Don’t settle for tax software with hidden fees or agendas. Use one that’s on your side—Ramsey SmartTax.

What if you don’t owe taxes and the IRS owes you a refund? In that case, you don’t have to file an extension because there won’t be any penalty for failing to file your tax return (no tax bill, no failure-to-file penalty).

But if you wait too long to file, you run the risk of missing out on your refund altogether, so yeah—file your tax return. Even if you don’t think you owe anything.

Here’s the deal, folks—if you’re going through the hassle of trying to figure out your tax liability and how much you’ve already paid for Form 4868, you might as well just go ahead and file your tax return. It probably won’t take as long as you think it will, and then you won’t have to worry about it anymore!

How Do I File a Tax Extension?

So, all you have to do to file an extension on your 2024 tax return is fill out Form 4868 and file it by Tax Day, which falls on April 15 this year.4 You can file it online or by good old snail mail.

Form 4868 is pretty simple to fill out, especially for a tax form. Here is some of the information you’ll need:

  • Your name, address and Social Security number.
  • Your estimated tax liability (how much federal taxes you owe).
  • How much in federal taxes you’ve paid already (you can find that on your W-2). You need to report this info so you can make a tax payment to the IRS when you file your extension.

Okay, there are two ways you can file Form 4868:

  1. File your tax extension online.

The IRS allows you to e-file an extension through the IRS website. Or you can file an extension with your tax software. If you want easy-to-use tax software with no hidden fees, check out Ramsey SmartTax.

If you owe taxes and make a full or partial payment online, you’ll get an automatic extension without having to fill out Form 4868. But you still have to file your tax return eventually.

  1. File your tax extension by mail.

Like the taste of licking stamps and envelopes? You can download Form 4868 from the IRS website, fill it out, and snail mail it to the IRS by Tax Day, along with a check or money order for your tax bill.

But snail is the key word to remember here. If you want even a reasonably fast response from Uncle Sam, just go online for your extension request.

When Should You File a Tax Extension?

Now, let’s be clear. If your tax situation is pretty simple and you’re just feeling lazy, get your butt off the couch and do your taxes! Better yet—grab a laptop and do your taxes from your favorite spot on your couch.

Otherwise, here are some situations where it’s okay to file an extension:

1. You don’t have the documents you need.

Are you missing your W-2, 1099, or other important documents? In that case, file for an extension, gather those documents, and do your taxes.

2. You go through an unexpected life event.

Life doesn’t stop for taxes. If you experience a traumatic life event like a death or illness, don’t push yourself to finish your taxes. File for an extension, focus on your life, and do your taxes later. Just don’t forget about them!

3. Your tax situation is really complicated, and you just need more time.

Itemizing tax deductions or owning a small business can make your tax filing really difficult. In that case, pushing the deadline to October can prevent you from rushing through your taxes and making dumb mistakes.

But listen: If your tax situation is that complicated, you should work with a pro. What may take you days or weeks to do can take a pro far less time. 

What’s the Penalty for Not Filing My Taxes on Time?

When it comes to late penalties for not filing your taxes, you could be in one of two scenarios:

Are you expecting a refund?

If you’re expecting a refund, you won’t get a penalty for filing late. You just won’t get your tax refund until you file. The IRS will hold onto your money for up to three years.5 What happens after three years? The IRS pockets the cash.

Do you owe taxes?

Failing to file an extension could cost you a pretty penny if you owe taxes. For every month (or partial month) you don’t file your return, you’ll pay an additional 5% of what you owe up to 25%.6

For example, let’s say you owe $1,000, and miss the April 15 deadline, and don’t file an extension. You finally get around to filing your taxes on June 15. Your failure-to-file penalty would be $100 ($1,000 x 5% per month). You’ll also owe interest (currently 4% per year) on your bill.7

What’s the Penalty for Not Paying My Taxes on Time?

Let’s say you file an extension, but you can’t pay all your tax bill. The late payment penalty is much less severe than the failure-to-file penalty. Instead of paying 5% every month, you’ll pay 0.5% per month up to a maximum of 25%. You’ll also pay 4% interest.8  

Let’s go back to our example above. Say you owe $1,000, but this time you file an extension. By June 15, your penalty would be $10 ($1,000 x 1%), plus interest.

Having Trouble Doing Your Taxes?

Here’s the thing: Getting a tax extension doesn’t solve your initial problem—getting your taxes filed.

If you don’t think you’ll be able to get your taxes together in time, talk with a RamseyTrusted tax pro. These tax experts have years of experience and, believe it or not, they love this stuff. They can help you file an extension or go ahead and file your tax return.

If your taxes are pretty straightforward and you want an easy-to-use tax software that can give you some peace of mind, check out Ramsey SmartTax! No hidden fees, no advertisements, no games. That’s how it should be!


Next Steps

  • One way to file an extension is to do it online through the IRS website or with your tax software. If you want easy-to-use tax software with no hidden fees, check out Ramsey SmartTax.
  • Once you’ve gotten your tax extension filed, don’t put off filing your tax return! Here’s how to file your return in six simple steps.
  • Still have questions about filing an extension? Get connected with a RamseyTrusted Tax Pro. They can make sure you meet all of Uncle Sam’s deadlines and avoid those pesky late fees and penalties. 
Find a Tax Pro

Frequently Asked Questions

We said it earlier, but it’s worth repeating: A tax extension doesn’t give you more time to pay your taxes. If you owe taxes, you must pay them by Tax Day. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay interest and late penalties.

Figuring out how much you owe without actually filling out your tax return can be tricky. The IRS offers online tools to figure out your tax bill so you can send in a payment with your extension form.

A tax extension lasts for six months. But you don’t want to push the deadline because the IRS only gives one extension. Miss the second deadline, and you’ll be hit with failure-to-file penalties, and those are 5% a month up to a max of 25%.9

The tax extension deadline is always the same as Tax Day. For 2024, that’s April 15, and it’s a full-stop deadline. If you don’t file for an extension by Tax Day, the failure-to-file penalties will start, so don’t procrastinate!

Extensions are pretty much automatically approved. It’s super rare for the IRS to reject a tax extension. In fact, Form 4868 doesn’t even ask for a reason for your extension. So, My dog ate my W-2 or I was too busy binge-watching Netflix or Zombies invaded my hometown are all okay excuses as far as the IRS is concerned.

When you file your extension electronically, you’ll receive an electronic confirmation. Hang on to that!

If you filed by mail, you probably won’t receive a confirmation from the IRS. You can just assume your request was accepted. Or, if you don’t mind waiting on hold for hours, you could try calling the IRS to see if they received your form. 

If you’re on a trip for work or on vacation and you miss Tax Day, the IRS doesn’t want to hear your excuses. You’re still expected to file your taxes (or an extension) before the April deadline. The IRS does offer a little bit of grace if you’re living outside the country on Tax Day.

Out of Country

U.S. citizens who are living outside the States for work or military service receive an automatic two-month extension to file their taxes.10 That means you’ll have until June to file your return without penalties. However, interest will be added to your bill starting on Tax Day.

Combat Zone Extension

Service members who are deployed overseas in a combat zone or as part of an operation protecting national interests don’t have to file a tax return or pay their tax bill until 180 days after the deployment has ended.11 This also applies if you were injured and hospitalized while serving. 

Federal Classic Includes:

  • All major income types and federal forms

  • Prepare, print and e-file

  • Phone and email support

  • 1 year of audit assistance

Get Started With Ramsey SmartTax

Federal Premium Includes:

Everything in Classic plus:

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Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners. Learn More.

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