When is the tax extension deadline?

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In a Nutshell

Requesting a filing extension for your federal tax return can buy you some extra time to file your 1040 — although it doesn’t give you extra time to pay any tax you owe. If you requested and received a filing extension, it’s important to know the tax extension deadline.
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This article was fact-checked by our editors and CPA Janet Murphy, senior product specialist with Credit Karma.

Getting an extension to file your federal income tax return isn’t a “set-it-and-forget-it” kind of thing. You need to stay on top of the tax extension deadline so you can be sure to file your return on time.

When is the tax extension deadline and is it the same for everyone? What do you need to do to prepare for it and what might happen if you miss it?

Here’s some information you need to know if you got an extension to file your federal income tax return.

When is the tax extension deadline?

During the 2019 filing season (for your 2018 federal income tax return), the IRS expected approximately 14.6 million people would request an extension to file their taxes — the largest number of requests received in a year, an IRS spokesman told the New York Times.

Getting a filing extension basically means you’re allowed to file your federal tax return after the Tax Day deadline, which is usually April 15 for most filers. You can request an extension by …

  • Filing an IRS Form 4868 electronically or by mail. It’s also a good idea to pay any estimated tax due.
  • Making a full or partial payment of your estimated federal income tax that’s due for the year by the original filing deadline and noting on the payment that it’s for an extension. You must use Direct Pay, the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System or a credit or debit card.

If you qualify for the six-month extension it typically gives you until Oct. 15 to file your tax return. But any tax you owe is still due by the original filing deadline, which is usually April 15 for most taxpayers. A six-month extension of time to file is not an extension of time to pay.

And remember, an extension of time to file your federal return is not necessarily an extension of time to file your state return, too. If you feel you need more time to file a state return, check with your state’s tax authority to determine how to request an extension.

Some special cases

Although April 15 is the tax deadline for most U.S. taxpayers, some may get extra time due to certain circumstances, such as being affected by a federally recognized disaster or serving in the military in a combat zone. For example, people affected by severe storms and flooding in Iowa on March 12, 2019 have until July 31, 2019 to file and pay their 2018 federal income taxes.

What should I do now that I’ve got my extension?

Although your six-month extension gives you until Oct. 15 to file, there’s no reason why you can’t file sooner if you have everything you need. You may still be able to file electronically, too.

What if I owe more than I thought?

If, after preparing your tax return ahead of the extension deadline, you discover that you underestimated and underpaid your tax obligation, you could end up owing interest and possibly a penalty on the unpaid balance.

What if I miss the tax extension deadline?

If you got a six-month extension, try not to miss the Oct. 15 due date. Missing it could trigger a failure to file or late filing penalty.

What if I didn’t request an extension?

The IRS says your extension was automatic if …

  • You didn’t file your tax return but paid part of or the full amount of tax you owed by Tax Day, and
  • You used Direct Pay, a credit or debit card to pay, and
  • You noted on the payment that it was for an extension.

In this case, according to the IRS you didn’t need to do anything else to get an extension to file your taxes.

But if you didn’t file, didn’t request an extension and didn’t pay all or part of the tax you owed, you could face penalties for late filing and late payment. If you were owed a tax refund, you won’t face a late-filing penalty for your federal return, since this penalty is a percentage of tax owed.

Can I get an extension after April 15?

Probably not. April 15 is typically the deadline for paying any tax you owe and requesting a filing extension. Missing payment or filing deadlines typically results in interest and penalties.

In some situations, you may be able to get penalties waived if you can show reasonable cause for why you missed a deadline. Situations that may constitute reasonable cause include fire or natural disaster, death, serious illness, incapacitation or the unavoidable absence of a taxpayer or a member of the taxpayer’s immediate family.

The IRS weighs all the facts and circumstances of each situation to determine if a taxpayer had reasonable cause to miss a filing or payment deadline.

Bottom line

If you got an extension of time to file your federal income tax return, you bought yourself some breathing room. But if you received a filing extension and you’re required to file a return, the IRS expects you to file by Tax Day or the extension deadline. And any tax you owe is due on Tax Day, not on the extended filing deadline.

If you received a six-month extension, be sure to file your federal return before the October deadline. Missing the extension deadline could have negative consequences, such as facing penalties.

A senior product specialist with Credit Karma, Janet Murphy is a CPA with more than a decade in the tax industry. She’s worked as a tax analyst, tax product development manager and tax accountant. She has accounting degrees and certifications from Clemson University and the U.S. Career Institute. You can find her on LinkedIn.

About the author: Evelyn Pimplaskar is Credit Karma’s tax editor. With nearly 30 years of experience in media, marketing, public relations and journalism, Evelyn’s written about nearly everything – from newspaper accounts of salacious … Read more.