By MELINDA WILLIAMS
The deadline to file federal income taxes is Tuesday, but if you’re not able to file or pay on time, the Internal Revenue Service says not to panic.
Filing extensions are available for taxpayers needing more time to complete their forms; and those having trouble paying their taxes may qualify for payment plans or other relief. However, the best way to avoid “stiff penalties” is to file a return or request an extension by the April 15 deadline.
The IRS says taxpayers should file a return even if they can’t afford to pay the full amount they owe.
The easiest way for taxpayers of any income level to get an automatic six-month extension to file a return is by completing Form 4868 through the Free File link at IRS.gov. This extends the filing deadline until Oct. 15, but the taxpayer still must estimate their tax liability and pay any amount due.
Completing Form 4868 allows the taxpayer to avoid paying a late filing penalty, which normally is 5 percent of the unpaid balance per month. Plus, any payment made reduces or eliminates the 3 percent annual interest (compounded daily) and the .5 percent monthly late payment penalties that apply to payments made after the April 15 deadline.
Extensions also can be requested through paid tax preparers or tax preparation software, or by filing the paper version of Form 4868, which can be printed from the IRS.gov website.
Over 12 million taxpayers requested extensions last year, according to IRS. Over seven million of the extensions were requested electronically.
Some taxpayers automatically receive a filing extension without having to make a request, including:
•Taxpayers who live abroad have until June 16 to file, but tax payments still are due April 15.
•Members of military and others serving in Afghanistan and other combat zones can wait until 180 days after leaving the combat zone to file their returns and pay taxes due. For details, see Extensions of Deadlines in Publication 3, Armed Forces’ Tax Guide.
•People affected by certain natural disasters.
Details on all filing and payment options are available on IRS.gov.