how to file for a federal tax extensino

How to File for a Federal Tax Extension

By Cameron McCool on May 17, 2018

Heads up: this article is only relevant for U.S. businesses.

Not going to make the tax filing deadline? We have good news. You probably qualify for a tax extension. Even better, you can get a tax extension 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 have to pay interest on your taxes.

In a nutshell, here’s how you file for a tax extension

Step 1: Download the tax extension form that corresponds to your business type

Step 2: Submit your federal tax extension to the IRS

Step 3: Pay your taxes owed on time

Once complete, the extension is applied automatically.

Simple, right?

The process is the same for all business types—unless you’re a sole proprietor.

Sole proprietors: here’s how you file for an extension online

Before we get into how to file for an extension, you should know there might be a chance you don’t need to file for an extension at all.

You’ll get an automatic six month extension if:

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.

For everyone else, to receive an extension, you must submit an application to extend your filing deadline.

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The Only Tax Checklist You'll Need

Get organized and skip the stress. This tax checklist tells you everything you need to file on time—customized for your business.

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. 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.

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:

IRS Direct Pay Tax Extension

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 $66,000 you can use Free File software, but if your income is above $66,000 you’ll have to settle for the Free File fillable forms.

IRS Form 4868

form4868

Remember, you’ll still need to pay your taxes by the April 17, 2018 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 17, 2018.

Once you submit your application for the extension, your tax return filing deadline will automatically be moved to October 15, 2018.

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, which you can do online through 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

form7004

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 credits.

Deadline to apply for a tax extension

Just like sole proprietors, you still have to pay estimated taxes by the usual filing deadline that corresponds with your business type:

Partnerships deadline: March 15, 2018. Deadline with extension: September 15, 2018.

S corporations deadline: March 15, 2018. Deadline with extension: September 15, 2018.

C corporations deadline: April 17, 2018. Deadline with extension: October 15, 2018. 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.

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 asking your CPA to look everything over, just to be safe.

Cartoon illustration of an income statement

The Only Tax Checklist You'll Need

Get organized and skip the stress. This tax checklist tells you everything you need to file on time—customized for your business.


This post is to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, business, or tax advice. Each person should consult his or her own attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in this post. Bench assumes no liability for actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.

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