This simple move ‘takes minutes’ to file a free federal tax extension, tax pro says — here’s what to know

Personal finance

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If you need more time for your taxes, there’s a quick, free way to file a federal tax extension online, according to experts.

This season, 1 in 4 Americans don’t feel prepared to file their taxes — and 29% admit to procrastinating — according to a January survey from IPX1031, an investment property exchange service.

Luckily, filing for a federal tax extension “takes minutes,” according to Tommy Lucas, a certified financial planner and enrolled agent at Moisand Fitzgerald Tamayo in Orlando, Florida.

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There’s still time to reduce your tax bill or boost your refund before the deadline

The federal tax deadline is April 15 for most taxpayers. But you have through that due date to file an extension, which pushes the deadline by six months to Oct. 15. Some taxpayers already have a federal extension due to natural disaster declarations.

Without the extension, your balance triggers the failure to file penalty, which is worth 5% of your unpaid taxes per month or partial month, capped at 25%.

However, the “extension to file is not an extension to pay,” warned CFP Sean Lovison, founder of Philadelphia-area Purpose Built Financial Services.

“An extension gives you more time to gather documents and complete your return, but taxes owed are still due by the original deadline,” said Lovison, who is also a certified public accountant.

You’ll minimize penalties and interest by paying “at least the safe harbor amount,” he said.

The safe harbor amount is at least 100% of last year’s taxes. The threshold jumps to 110% if your prior year’s adjusted gross income was $150,000 or more.

How to file a tax extension online for free

Taxpayers have a few free options to file a federal tax extension.

You can complete Form 4868 and mail it to the IRS. But experts urge filers to opt for digital options if possible.

Generally, it’s best to send information digitally to the IRS “because mail takes forever and it’s unreliable,” said Josh Youngblood, an enrolled agent and owner of The Youngblood Group, a Dallas-based tax firm.

The easiest option is selecting “extension” when making your estimated tax payment for 2023, experts say.

This processes your extension automatically and you won’t need to submit an additional form, according to the IRS.

You’ll see a confirmation immediately after submitting your estimated tax payment. But you should double-check the transaction in your IRS online account, Youngblood said.

There’s also an option to file your extension for free online via IRS Free File, a public-private partnership between the IRS and several tax software companies, regardless of your income.   

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