3 Fast Tax Form 4868 Steps to File Your Extension Quick!

Tax Form 4868 hourglass dropping sand with the words April 15th Middle Class Dad

Don’t have your tax return completed?  NOW is the time to file your tax extension using tax form 4868!

Have you put off filing your taxes? Wondering if you owe or when the IRS might come knocking?

We’ve all been there and felt that fear and panic that drove is into avoiding the whole thing. But I’m here to tell you that avoiding taxes works out about as well as trying to cheat death.

Sooner or later we all have to pay, so why not take charge of it by filing tax form 4868?

In this post, I’m walking you through every simple step to file your tax extension. That way you can avoid penalties while you get your financial house in order.

We’ll explore the reasons to file an extension and the penalties for NOT filing one and filing late.

But most importantly, we’ll break down all the steps involved in filing tax form 4868 so you can rest a little easier.

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Death you can put off, taxes are certain!

Tax Form 4868 claymation tax collectors Middle Class Dad

The origins of tax day go back it’s introduction in 1913 when the tax deadline was originally March 1st.  The April 15th deadline we know and love was introduced in 1955.

During tax time, if you won’t be able to file by April 15th, NOW is the time for action!

The IRS won’t penalize you if you haven’t filed by April 15th, but ONLY if you file a tax extension using tax form 4868 on or before that date.  If you put off filing and miss the deadline, you’re looking at the failure to file fines of up to 25%!

Do note that the deadline is not always April 15th, as the IRS gives us a grace period any time the 15th falls on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

Filing a tax extension via tax form 4868 is quick and easy so there’s no reason not to request one if you won’t be able to get your return done by April 15th!  The tax extension gives you up to an additional 6 months to file.  Plenty of breathing room to get your finances in order.

If taxes stress you out, take a moment to check out my 11 Secret Ways to Maximize Your Tax Refund This Year.  Just some simple, actionable steps you can take to keep more of your hard-earned dollars!

The most crucial reasons to file a tax extension

You should file for at tax extension anytime you are unable to complete your return by April 15th.  And tax form 4868 is the way to do it!

There could be a variety of reasons you are unable to complete your return by the deadline.  The following are examples of good reasons to file a tax extension:

  1. Not having all your documentation (maybe an employer went out of business before sending you a W2?)
  2. Perhaps you are active military (serving our country and not in a good position to be able to file on time)
  3. You will be out of town for a period of time around tax time (and will be unable to file on time)
  4. You’ve procrastinated (to the point where you simply won’t be able to get your return ready by April 15th)

Of course, if you can file by April 15th, you should; especially if you will owe money as an extension is for filing, not paying.

Speaking of the active military as I mention above.  If you are in a combat zone, the IRS gives you 180 days after you leave the zone to both file and pay without penalty. They call that a Tax Exclusion for Combat Service, so just check that link if you need more information on that.

The most ridiculous reason for filing an extension

Many people confuse a tax extension as being able to pay taxes late.

In truth, as I mentioned above, a tax extension simply allows you to file your tax return late without a failure to file penalty.  It DOES NOT give you permission to pay what you owe late.

If you owe money and file a tax extension all you’ve really done is incur interest and a penalty for late payment.

If you have undergone certain hardships such as fire, natural disaster or death of an immediate family member, the IRS may grant you Penalty Relief Due to Reasonable Cause, in which case they will allow you to pay late without penalties.  Click the link if you think that might apply to you!

Just know being broke is NOT what they consider a reasonable cause!  If you struggle to keep your finances in order, I highly recommend you check out my most popular personal finance post called Paycheck to Paycheck – 7 ways to stop being broke!  I’ve been there and believe me, it’s not where you want to stay.

Tax Form 4868 Monopoly board Middle Class Dad

Filing late when you owe money will cost you BIG! 

You’ll likely pay some or all of the following penalties and interest:

  1. LATE FILING PENALTY – 5% of what you owe, PER MONTH, until you pay, up to a total of 25%!  If you owe $10,000 that could be up to $2,500 if you don’t file on time!
  2. LATE PAYMENT PENALTY – .05% of what you owe, PER MONTH, until you pay, again up to 25% max.  If you get dinged with both filing late and paying late, you could potentially pay A LOT of money!

If you know you owe, don’t just file an extension and don’t bury your head in the sand.

Those mistakes will cost you thousands of dollars!  You just need to learn how to Set Up an IRS Payment Plan with form 9465.

You’ll be amazed at just how quick and easy that is.  You can thank me later!  Just still plan to file your return by April 15th. The failure to file penalty can be up to 10 times higher than just failure to pay.

The crucial step you must take if you can’t pay but might owe

If you suspect you’ll owe but need to file a tax extension anyway, it’s imperative that you send in what you think you’ll owe by the tax deadline.

Obviously, if you need an extension then you haven’t figured out exactly how much will be due.  In this case, it’s better to estimate than send nothing.

Even if you underestimate you’ll likely just get dinged for the difference between what you really owe and what you paid; hopefully a small amount!

Need a handy tool to do a reasonably accurate estimate?  Check out TaxCaster: Income Tax Calculator by Intuit’s TurboTax.

This video walks you step by step through the process.  It’s not for the current year but everything else is still 100$% accurate and easy to follow.

So what are my . . .

3 Fast Tax Form 4868 Steps to File Your Extension Quick?


Fill out IRS form 4868, their “Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return” and mail it in with your estimated tax payment.


Alternately you can file that form electronically using by e-filing the form through TurboTax.  Again, this doesn’t give you permission to pay late, but Intuit’s TurboTax helps you estimate if you owe and can allow you to pay an estimated payment electronically.


Just know that while filing tax form 4868 gives you some breathing room, you still have to get your house in order by October 15th.  So you won’t want to put off getting your return done for too long.

While starting the process of preparing your return, you’ll want to review my post on 7 Common Tax Mistakes  You’ll be amazed at just how some of these simple mistakes can cost you down the road!

As a complete aside, if you do find yourself owing taxes and are unable to pay, a good emergency fund can really protect your family’s finances and future.

An emergency fund is essentially a savings account of 3 to 6 months of your expenses.  You don’t touch it except in cases of emergency.

I wouldn’t exactly call a tax bill an emergency as in most cases better planning could have averted it.

But using your emergency fund is better than going into debt or living in fear of the IRS.  If you don’t have an emergency fund, you owe it to your family to check out my Dave Ramsey Emergency Fund.

Someday your family may depend on it!

Looking for an easy, quick and free way to file your taxes online?

E-file Your IRS Taxes for FREE with E-file in as little as 15 minutes. Get your refund as fast as possible. If you run into trouble, quickly and easily get help with their online support team.

Learn more about E-file today!

Have you procrastinated on filing tax form 4868?

In this post, we took an in-depth look into the world of tax extensions.

Tax extensions don’t allow you to file late, per se, but you will avoid the big penalties of not filing or filing late. We also took a look at all the penalties involved in failing to file an extension as well as the possible reasons you might want to file.

Specifically, we looked at exactly how to file tax form 4868 so you can get back to living your life!

If you like this post, please follow my Income Tax Tips board on Pinterest for more great tips from myself and top tax experts!

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Of course I have to offer the standard disclaimer here: I am not a tax professional and you should always seek the advice of a CPA or other tax professional.  While I do have decades of experience running million dollar businesses and have many years of personal experience with taxes, ultimately, the opinions offered here are mine based on my personal experience, knowledge and research and should not be interpreted as legal or financial advice.
Photo credits (that aren’t mine or which require attribution:
Monopoly Income Tax Ver1 By: Chris Potter is licensed under CC BY 2.0