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WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today reminded anyone unable to meet next week's tax deadline that they can easily get an automatic six-month tax-filing extension. And, the easiest and quickest way to get an extension is online through the Free File link on IRS.gov.

In a matter of minutes, anyone, regardless of income, can use this free service to electronically request an automatic extension on Form 4868. Filing this form gives taxpayers until Oct. 15 to file a return. This is an extension of time to file; not an extension of time to pay.

To get the extra time, taxpayers must estimate their tax liability on this form and should also pay any amount due. Taxpayers can e-pay what they owe using the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), by electronic funds withdrawal or with a credit or debit card. Those who choose to pay by check or money order should make the payment out to the "United States Treasury."

By properly filing Form 4868, a taxpayer will avoid the late-filing penalty, normally five percent per month based on the unpaid balance, that applies to returns filed after the deadline. In addition, any payment made with an extension request will reduce or eliminate interest and late-payment penalties that apply to payments made after April 17. The current interest rate is three percent per year, compounded daily, and the late-payment penalty is normally 0.5 percent per month.

Besides Free File, taxpayers can choose to request an extension through a paid tax preparer, using tax-preparation software or by filing a paper Form 4868, available on IRS.gov. Of the 10.5 million extension forms received by the IRS last year, about 4 million were filed electronically.

Some taxpayers get more time to file without having to ask for it:

  • Members of the military on duty outside the U.S., as well as U.S. citizens and resident aliens living and working abroad have until June 15 to file and pay, though interest still applies to payments made after April 17.
  • Members of the military and others serving in Iraq, Afghanistan or other combat zone localities can typically wait until at least 180 days after they leave the combat zone to both file returns and pay any taxes due.
  • People in parts of Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia, affected by tornadoes, severe storms, floods and other recent natural disasters, have until May 31 to file and pay.

Details on all filing and payment options are on IRS.gov.

It's free to prepare, print and e-file extensions to file your federal and state returns with TaxACT Free Federal Edition. If you need to calculate and pay your federal taxes, TaxACT Free Edition will help you with that as well. Start now.

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