Not going to make the tax deadline? We have good news. You probably qualify for a tax extension. Even better, you can get extra time to file your taxes in 30 minutes or less if you have a wifi connection. We’ll show you how.
Just remember, an extension to file your taxes (the paperwork) is not an extension to pay your taxes (the money you owe the IRS). Even if you do receive an extension, you’re still required to pay your estimated taxes by the original due date. If you don’t pay on time, you’ll face a late payment penalty.
In a nutshell, here’s how you file for a tax extension
Step 1: Download the tax forms that correspond to your business type
Step 2: Submit your federal tax extension request to the IRS
Step 3: Pay your taxes owed on time
Once complete, the extension is applied automatically.
The process is the same for all business types in the United States, regardless of tax liability—unless you’re a sole proprietor.
Heads up: This covers filing for an extension of federal tax. Getting an extension on state tax differs from state to state; contact your Secretary of State for more information.
Sole proprietors: here’s how you file for an extension online
Filing for a sole proprietorship or self-employed extension, you’ll follow virtually the same steps it takes to file a personal tax return. But before we get into how to avoid late filing penalties, you should know there might be a chance you don’t need to file for an extension at all.
You’ll get a six month automatic extension of time if:
- You’re an individual working in a combat zone in support of the U.S. Armed Forces (spouse included)
- You’re a member of the military serving outside of the U.S.
- You’re a U.S. citizen living and working abroad
- You’re a U.S. citizen living in parts of the country that have been hit by severe natural disasters
If any of these exceptions apply, you’ll automatically receive an extension of time to file your tax return—you do not need to file for the extension. You’ll have tax due six months after your normal filing date.
For everyone else, to receive an extension, you must submit an application for automatic extension.
File by paying electronically (time: <5 minutes)
If you plan on paying your taxes online, you can get an automatic six-month extension without filling out any other forms. This is by far the fastest, simplest way to get an extension on tax filing. Rather than going through the IRS Free File system (more on that below), you can just select the “extension” option when paying through the IRS payment portal. It’s as simple as that. Your six-month extension will begin right away, no need to apply for anything.
Also, filing online and setting up direct deposit for your bank account is the fastest way to get your tax refund, even if you’re filing with an extension.
You’ll still need to provide your basic contact and tax information, but you won’t need to file for an extension and pay your taxes as two separate steps.
Here’s what the process looks like:
Filing for an extension online (time: <30 minutes)
To file for a tax extension separate from paying your taxes online, you’ll need to fill out IRS Form 4868. The IRS offers a few tools to do this online. If your income is below $72,000 you can use Free File software, but if your income is above $72,000 you’ll have to settle for the Free File fillable forms.
IRS Form 4868
Remember, you’ll still need to pay your taxes by the April 15, 2021 deadline. So to file for an extension, you’ll also need to estimate your total taxes owed (here’s a guide to calculating your small business taxes) and subtract the total amount of tax you’ve already paid.
Deadline to apply for a tax extension
You need to apply for a tax extension on or before the usual tax deadline of April 15, 2021.
Once you submit your application for the extension, your tax return filing deadline will automatically be moved to October 15, 2021.
Partnerships, S corps, and C corps: here’s how you file for an extension online
Time: <30 minutes. If you have your information handy.
For all corporations and partnerships, you’ll need to complete Form 7004 for an extension on filing your taxes. Rather than filing a paper form, you’re likely better off using the IRS’ e-file service. Just create an account to get started, and the website will guide you through the rest.
For each type of return you’re requesting an extension for, you’ll need to submit a separate Form 7004.
IRS Form 7004
Once you’ve identified the return that you’re requesting an extension for, you’ll need to provide the IRS with some basic information about your company:
- If your organization is a foreign corporation that doesn’t have an office or place of business in the U.S.
- If your organization is a corporation, and is the common parent of a group that will be filing a consolidated return.
- If the organization is a corporation or partnership that qualifies under Regulations section 1.6081-5.
- The dates of your calendar and tax years.
- If you’re filing a short tax year, and why.
Finally, you’ll also need to include the tentative amount of your total taxes, and your total payments and tax credits.
Deadline to apply for a tax extension
Just like sole proprietors, you still have to may estimated tax payments by the usual filing deadline that corresponds with your business type:
Partnerships deadline: March 15, 2021. Deadline with extension: September 15, 2021.
S corporations deadline: March 15, 2021. Deadline with extension: September 15, 2021.
C corporations deadline: July 15, 2021. Deadline with extension: October 15, 2021. If the fiscal year end is different from the calendar year end, then the filing due date is on the 15th day of the 4th month after the fiscal year end. The extended deadline would be 6 months after this date.
Filing for an extension is relatively simple. It can help you avoid late filing fees and maximize your small business tax deductions, while reducing some of the pressure involved in tax preparation.
If you’re having trouble calculating the amount of estimated tax you need to pay the IRS, we recommend reading our summary article How to Calculate and Pay Estimated Quarterly Taxes. And as always, we recommend hiring a tax professional to look everything over, just to be safe.