Kerry M. Kerstetter, the tax expect and blogger behind Tax Guru-Ker$tetter Letter, believes that "the later you file your tax return, the less likely you are to be selected by IRS for audit." He mentioned this is statistically proven in Amir D. Aczel's book "How To Beat the IRS At Its Own Game."
Thanks to Amazon's full-text search feature, I got a chance to read some pages of the book. The aforementioned statistics is discussed on page 123:
"Out of 1,289 returns, 73 were filed late, and of these, not one was audited. This fact, alone, may not mean much since the overall audit probability was then only about one percent. However, twelve of the 73 late-filed returns reported information that -- based on the rules explained in the following chapters -- would have made them likely to be audited. Seventeen returns have very high ratio-based audit probability. The fact that these returns were not audited certainly suggests that filing late reduces the audit vulnerability."
Actually, I am not convinced by his logic. This is a small sample base in the first place, and saying some of these 73 returns should have been audited based on his self-defined rules, but didn't due to a late filing date, is a borderline tautology.
Anyway, you don't have to believe in the statistics to file an extension for your own benefit. Think about Kerry's second argument: your tax preparer will be extremely busy heading toward April 15, and thus more prone to error. A late and correct tax return should be much better than an early but wrong one.
You can file an automatic extension to October 15 by using Form 2268. Mind you, you still need to pay your expected 2004 tax due by April 15, or you will be subject to interest charges and penalty.