Questions on Tax Extensions


By Kelly Phillips Erb

More than 14 million taxpayers (including me) requested an extension to file their federal income tax return this year. There's just about a week to finish up: October 15 is the last day for most people to file their tax returns for 2018. 

Even though filing with an extension isn’t hard, taxpayers can still get caught up in the details as the date approaches. Here are the answers to some of the most popular questions about extensions:

Why isn’t the deadline October 17? I know it’s confusing. Extensions give you six more months to file. And this year, Tax Day fell on Tuesday, April 17 (here’s why). But those extra days in April don’t translate to extra days in October. The deadline is still October 15, six months from the normal Tax Day.

Can you e-file your extended tax return? Yes, you can e-file your tax return with your tax professional, by using your regular tax software, or Internal Revenue Service (IRS) e-file and Free File. If you want to file by paper, you can download your form 1040 as a pdf here.

If I file by mail, where should I file my return? Not all returns go to the same mailing address. Where you file depends on the kind of return, whether you owe taxes and what kind of delivery service you're using. Read the instructions carefully. You can find out where to mail your form 1040 here.

Remember, your return is only considered timely filed if it’s mailed to the right place by the due date so double check those addresses. You’ll also want to make sure you have the correct postage.

Does filing an extension give me any extra time to fund my retirement plan? Maybe. Self-employed persons have the opportunity to fund a SEP-IRA, solo 401(k) or SIMPLE-IRA plan through the extension date (for more on retirement accounts for the self-employed and small businesses, click here). Check with your tax professional for details.

What about funding my IRA? Typically, your IRA must be funded by Tax Day (the April deadline). But, there’s still some planning that you can do with an extension: You can re-characterize your traditional IRA contribution as a Roth IRA or your Roth IRA contribution as a traditional IRA contribution. The IRA rules can be tricky so again, check with your tax professional for details.

Wait. You said “most people” must file by October 15. Who gets more time? Some extensions are automatic, including:

  • Members of the military and others serving in combat zones or hazardous zone areas generally have until at least 180 days after they leave the zone to file returns and pay any taxes due.

  • Taxpayers affected by natural disasters may have extra time. In particular, the IRS has extended the deadline for taxpayers in California, North Carolina and South Carolina, and Texas.  

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