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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:
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:
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:
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.
January 1 — Everyone
Federal Holiday (New Year's Day) - Details
January 11 — Employees who work for tips
If you received $20 or more in tips during December, report them to your employer - Details
January 12 — 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 December 2015.
January 14 — Regular method taxes
Deposit the tax for the last 16 days of December 2015.
January 15 — Individuals
Make a payment of your estimated tax for 2015 if you did not pay your income tax for the year through withholding (or did not pay in enough tax that way). Use Form 1040-ES - Details
January 15 — Farmers & fishermen
Pay your estimated tax for 2015 using Form 1040-ES - Details
January 15 — Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in December 2015
January 15 — Nonpayroll withholding.
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in December 2015.
January 18 — Everyone
Federal Holiday (Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr./Inauguration Day) - Details
January 27 — Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method.
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the last 16 days of December 2015.
January 29 — Regular method taxes
Deposit the tax for the first 15 days of January.