Need More Time?
Here’s How to File a Tax Extension
April 15 is just around the corner, and let’s face it: Some people simply won’t be ready and will need to file an extension.
In certain cases—for instance, you’re missing some of your essential tax documents, working overseas, or even dealing with a major crisis such as a death or illness—the IRS does allow you to file for an extension. If you file by April 15, it buys you time until October 15, 2019, to file your return and helps you avoid any late-filing or late-payment penalties.
But there are a lot of misconceptions out there about filing an extension, and the biggest one is that filing an extension means you don’t have to pay anything until October.
Let me be clear: Filing an extension does NOT mean you avoid paying anything owed this month. Even if you file for an extension, you will still have to calculate your estimated payment and send it to the IRS by April 15, 2019. Filing for an extension only extends your time to file the return and, if necessary, the final amount due.
If you think you’ll need an extension, contact us right away. We not only can file the extension paperwork (Form 4858) quickly for you, but we can easily create an estimate of what you may owe. We do this by determining what, if anything, may have changed for you from last year or ask for copies of your W2 and 1099 forms and devise an estimate based solely on that. And if you find that you simply aren’t prepared to send your amount owed right now, you still need to file an extension with a request to get on a payment plan. This will help you avoid any late-payment fees on any balance due which could be almost 10 times higher than if you do not file an extension.
Be aware that filing for an extension most often results in being granted the extension. But it’s not guaranteed. In some cases—for instance, your estimated payment seems way off or problematic—your request may be rejected. This is why it pays to have a CPA do this filing for you: We have the knowledge to produce an accurate estimate to help avoid such problems, and we can do it quickly, to meet the April 15 deadline.
Making Your Tax Payment
Whether you’re filing for an extension or simply need to send what your return says you owe by April 15, there are a few options for sending in your payment.
- We recommend using the direct pay ACH (Automatic Clearing House) option provided on the IRS website, because the IRS charges “convenience fees” to process a credit card, costing you more, and because this is a safe option to ensure your money arrives on time and securely.
- The second-best option for submitting payment is to provide your accountant with bank information, and he or she can make the payment for you when the extension or return is filed.
- The third option is tried and true—mailing a check—and involves having your accountant provide you with a voucher and mail-in instructions. There are always risks with mail, such as interception by would-be thieves or simple lost-in-the-mail problems. However, for some who wait until the last minute, popping a check in the mail on April 15 is allowed, as long as the postmark reads April 15.
Can’t pay the whole thing? That’s okay. Pay what you can and have your accountant submit a request for a payment plan when you file your return. Depending on your circumstances and paperwork, you may have to pay penalties or interest, but your accountant can provide you with the details on this. A payment plan gives you a predictable payment amount to build into your monthly budget and ensures you won’t be charged for lateness.
As a last resort, if you simply can’t pay anything, at least file for the extension. The interest is high for late payments, but the penalty for being short on your payment is .5 percent of the balance owed per month, while the penalty without an extension is 5 percent—a significant difference. It behooves you to file without the payment versus not filing anything and taking your chances.
Also, don’t forget your IRA contributions! April 15 is the deadline for making IRA or Health Savings Account contributions for the year 2018. We work with our clients to help you plan these contributions in advance so that this isn’t a surprise.
Make an appointment or contact us today to find out how we can help you now or in the coming year! And congratulations for making it through another tax season!