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WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today reminded taxpayers that quick and easy solutions are available if they can't file their returns or pay their taxes on time, and they can even request relief online.

The IRS says don't panic. Tax-filing extensions are available to taxpayers who need more time to finish their returns. Remember, this is an extension of time to file; not an extension of time to pay. However, taxpayers who are having trouble paying what they owe usually qualify for payment plans and other relief. Last month, for example, the IRS, as part of its Fresh Start initiative announced penalty relief for unemployed taxpayers and self-employed individuals whose income has dropped.

Either way, taxpayers will avoid stiff penalties if they file either a regular income tax return or a request for a tax-filing extension by this year's April 17 deadline. Taxpayers should file, even if they can't pay the full amount due.

Here are further details on the options available.

More Time to File

People who haven't finished filling out their return can get an automatic six-month extension. The fastest and easiest way to get the extra time is 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 tax-filing extension on Form 4868.

Filing this form gives taxpayers until Oct. 15 to file a return. To get the extension, taxpayers must estimate their tax liability on this form and should also pay any amount due.

By properly filing this form, 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 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. These include:

  • Taxpayers abroad. U.S. citizens and resident aliens who live and work abroad, as well as members of the military on duty outside the U.S., have until June 15 to file. Tax payments are still due April 17.
  • Members of the military and others serving in Iraq, Afghanistan or other combat zone localities. Typically, taxpayers can wait until at least 180 days after they leave the combat zone to file returns and pay any taxes due. For details, see Extensions of Deadlines in Publication 3, Armed Forces Tax Guide.
  • People affected by certain tornadoes, severe storms, floods and other recent natural disasters. Currently, parts of Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia are covered by federal disaster declarations, and affected individuals and businesses in these areas have until May 31 to file and pay.

Easy Ways to E-Pay

Taxpayers with a balance due IRS now have several quick and easy ways to electronically pay what they owe. They include:

  • Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). This free service gives taxpayers a safe and convenient way to pay individual and business taxes by phone or online. To enroll or for more information, call 800-316-6541 or visit www.eftps.gov.
  • Electronic funds withdrawal. E-file and e-pay in a single step.
  • Credit or debit card. Both paper and electronic filers can pay their taxes by phone or online through any of several authorized credit and debit card processors. Though the IRS does not charge a fee for this service, the card processors do. For taxpayers who itemize their deductions, these convenience fees can be claimed on Schedule A Line 23.

Taxpayers who choose to pay by check or money order should make the payment out to the "United States Treasury." Write "2011 Form 1040," name, address, daytime phone number and Social Security number on the front of the check or money order. To help insure that the payment is credited promptly, also enclose a Form 1040-V payment voucher.

More Time to Pay

Taxpayers who have finished their returns should file by the regular April 17 deadline, even if they can't pay the full amount due. In many cases, those struggling with unpaid taxes qualify for one of several relief programs, including those recently expanded under the IRS "Fresh Start" initiative. These include the following:

  • Most people can set up a payment agreement with the IRS on line in a matter of minutes. Those who owe $50,000 or less in combined tax, penalties and interest can use the Online Payment Agreement to set up a monthly payment agreement for up to six years. Taxpayers can choose this option even if they have not yet received a bill or notice from the IRS. Alternatively, taxpayers can request a payment agreement by filing Form 9465-FS. This form can be downloaded from IRS.gov and mailed along with a tax return, bill or notice.
  • Most unemployed filers and self-employed individuals whose business income dropped substantially can apply for a six-month extension of time to pay. Eligible taxpayers will not be charged a late-payment penalty if they pay any tax, penalty and interest due by Oct. 15, 2012. Taxpayers qualify if they were unemployed for any 30-day period between Jan. 1, 2011 and April 17, 2012. Self-employed people qualify if their business income declined 25 percent or more in 2011, due to the economy. Income limits and other special rules apply. Apply using Form 1127-A.
  • Some struggling taxpayers may qualify for an offer-in-compromise. This is an agreement between a taxpayer and the IRS that settles the taxpayer's tax liabilities for less than the full amount owed. Generally, an offer will not be accepted if the IRS believes the liability can be paid in full as a lump sum or through a payment agreement. The IRS looks at the taxpayer's income and assets to make a determination regarding the taxpayer's ability to 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.

March 2015
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Upcoming Tax Dates

March 2All businesses
File information returns (for example, Forms 1099) for certain payments you made during 2014.

March 2Farmers & fishermen
File your 2014 income tax return (Form 1040) and pay any tax due - Details

March 2Payers of gambling winnings.
File Form 1096 along with Copy A of all the Forms W2G you issued for 2014. If you file Forms W2G electronically, your due date for filing them with the IRS will be extended to March 31. The due date for giving the recipient these forms remains February 2.

March 2 All employers
File Form W3, Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements, along with Copy A of all the Forms W2 you issued for 2014. If you file Forms W2 electronically, your due date for filing them with the SSA will be extended to March 31. The due date for giving the recipient these forms remains February 2.

March 2 Large food and beverage establishment employers
File Form 8027, Employer's Annual Information Return of Tip Income and Allocated Tips. Use Form 8027T, Transmittal of Employer's Annual Information Return of Tip Income and Allocated Tips, to summarize and transmit Forms 8027 if you have more than one establishment. If you file Forms 8027 electronically, your due date for filing them with the IRS will be extended to March 31.

March 2 Wagering tax
File Form 730 and pay the tax on wagers accepted during January.

March 2 Heavy highway vehicle use tax
File Form 2290 and pay the tax for vehicles first used in January.

March 10 Employees who work for tips
If you received $20 or more in tips during February, report them to your employer - Details

March 11 Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method.
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the first 15 days of February.

March 13 Regular method taxes
Deposit the tax for the last 13 days of February.

March 16 Corporations
File a 2014 calendar year income tax return (Form 1120) and pay any tax due - Details

March 16 S Corporations
File a 2014 calendar year income tax return (Form 1120S) and pay any tax due - Details

March 16 S Corporation election
File Form 2553, Election by a Small Business Corporation, to elect to be treated as an S corporation beginning with calendar year 2015. If Form 2553 is filed late, S corporation treatment will begin with calendar year 2016.

March 16 Electing larger partnerships
Provide each partner with a copy of Schedule K1 (Form 1065B), Partner's Share of Income (Loss) From an Electing Large Partnership, or a substitute Schedule K1. This due date applies even if the partnership requests an extension of time to file the Form 1065B by filing Form 7004

March 16 Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
If the monthly deposit rule Page 6 Publication 509 (2015) applies, deposit the tax for payments in February.

March 16 Nonpayroll withholding
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in February.

March 25 Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method.
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the last 14 days of February.

March 27 Regular method taxes
Deposit the tax for the first 15 days of March.

March 31 Electronic filing of Forms W2
File copies of all the Forms W2 you issued for 2014. This due date applies only if you electronically file.

March 31 Electronic filing of Forms W2G
File copies of all the Forms W2G you issued for 2014. This due date applies only if you electronically file.

March 31 Electronic filing of Forms 8027
File Forms 8027 for 2014. This due date applies only if you electronically file.

March 31 Wagering tax
File Form 730 and pay the tax on wagers accepted during February.

March 31 Heavy highway vehicle use tax
File Form 2290 and pay the tax for vehicles first used in February.

March 31 Electronic filing of Forms 1097, 1098, 1099, 3921, 3922, and W2G.
File Forms 1097, 1098, 1099, 3921, 3922, and W2G with the IRS. This due date applies only if you file electronically. Otherwise, see March 2. The due date for giving the recipient these forms generally remains February 2. View More Tax Dates