If you are not able to file your return by the due date, you generally can get an automatic 6-month extension of time to file. To get this automatic extension, you must file Form 4868. Or, you can file Form 4868 electronically (e-file), using your personal computer, or through a tax professional. You do not have to explain why you are asking for the extension. You will be contacted only if your request is denied.
The form must show your properly estimated tax liability based on the information available to you.
CAUTION! You may not be eligible. You cannot use the automatic 6-month extension of time to file if:
• You want the IRS to figure your tax, or
• You are under a court order to file by the regular due date
When To File
Generally, you must request the 6-month extension by the regular due date for your return.
Previous 2-Month Extension
If you are unable to file your return within the automatic 2-month extension period, you may be able to get an additional 4-month extension of time to file your return, for a total of 6 months. The automatic 2-month and the 6-month extension start at the same time. You do not have to request the 6-month extension until the new due date allowed by the first extension, but the total combined extension will still only be 6 months from the regular due date.
Time To Pay Not Extended
A 6-month extension of time to file is not an extension of time to pay. You must make an accurate estimate of your tax and send any necessary payment with your Form 4868 or pay the tax due by credit card. If you find you cannot pay the full amount due with Form 4868, you can still get the extension. You will owe interest on the unpaid amount.
You also may be charged a penalty for paying the tax late unless you have reasonable cause for not paying your tax when due. Interest and penalties are assessed (charged) from the original due date of your return.
Extension of Time to File in Order to Qualify for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion
You generally cannot get an extension of time to file of more than 6 months. However, if you are outside the United States and meet certain tests, you may be able to get a longer extension.
You can get an extension of time to file your tax return if you need the time to meet either the bona fide residence test or the physical presence test to qualify for either the foreign earned income exclusion or the foreign housing exclusion or deduction.
You should request an extension of time to file if all three of the following apply:
• You are a U.S. citizen or resident alien,
• You expect to meet either the bona fide residence test or the physical presence test, but not until after your tax return is due, and
• Your tax home is in a foreign country (or countries) throughout your period of bona fide residence or physical presence, whichever applies.
Generally, if you are granted an extension, it will be to 30 days beyond the date on which you can reasonably expect to qualify under either the bona fide residence test or the physical presence test. However, if you have moving expenses that are for services performed in 2 years, you may be granted an extension to 90 days beyond the close of the year following the year of first arrival in the foreign country. You may file Form 1040 any time before the extension expires.
How To Get An Extension
To obtain an extension, you should file Form 2350, Application for Extension of Time To File U.S. Income Tax Return, with the Internal Revenue Service office as specified in the instructions for Form 2350.
You must file Form 2350 by the due date for filing your return. Generally, if both your tax home and your abode are outside the United States and Puerto Rico on the regular due date of your return and you file on a calendar year basis, the due date for filing your return is June 15.
Form 2350 does not extend the time to pay taxes. If you do not pay the amount due by the regular due date, you will owe interest. You may also be charged penalties. You will owe interest on any tax not paid by the regular due date of your return, which is normally April 15 – even if you qualify for the 2-month extension because you were out of the country. The interest accrues until you pay the tax. Even if you had a good reason for not paying on time, you will still owe interest.
What If Tests Are Not Met
If you obtain an extension of time and unforeseen events make it impossible for you to satisfy either the bona fide residence test or the physical presence test, you should file your income tax return as soon as possible. You must pay interest on any tax due after the regular due date of the return (even though an extension was granted).