So, once you decided to apply for an extension, how should you start?
If you search for "tax extension" at Google, you might be attracted to a number of sponsored links that advertises "$19.95 IRS Tax Extension", "$19.95 1040 Tax Extension", etc. You don't need them -- requesting an extension is much more painless than you thought.
The Right Form
You might soon learn there are two different IRS forms for extension application: Form 4868 and Form 2688. For extending your tax filing deadline beyond April 15, Form 4868, or "Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return", is the right form to use. Once you file this form, you will be granted an automatic four-month extension so that you can file your full tax return by August 15. (FYI, Form 2688 is called "Application for Additional Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return" and can be used to extend after filing Form 4868 to request further extensions.)
Thanks to IRS's technological improvements over the last few years, you have more than one options to request this simple extension. Form 4868 spells out these four options:
1. E-File by Phone
You may call IRS hotline 1-888-796-1074 any time between February 7 and April 15 to request the extension. You can also make a payment via phone through electronic funds withdrawal by providing your banking account information.
2. E-File Using Your Personal Computer or Through a Tax Professional
If you use tax software, you can request the extension online. Your hired gun can also help you to request such extension.
3. E-File and Pay by Credit Card
You may make a payment ($1 minimum) through one of the two approved service providers and automatically initiate such extension. These two outlets are Official Payments Corporation and Link2Gov Corporation. Of course, when it comes to credit card payment, convenience fees do apply.
4. File a Paper Form 4868
Of course, you can always send in the Form by paper. Page 4 of the form provides the right address (different by your residence state) to send your Form to, and if you need to send in check or money order, make sure it is payable to "United States Treasury" (instead of IRS).
The path I choose is to pay by credit card. A ridiculous choice? Don't make a quick conclusion until you read my next post.