You can get a 6-month extension to file your taxes, but you still have to pay them by April 15

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  • The deadline to file your federal taxes and make payments is April 15, 2021.
  • If you don’t think you can get everything together in time, you can get an extension to October 15.
  • You still need to pay what you owe by April 15 or accrue interest and/or a penalty.
  • This article was reviewed for accuracy and clarity by Luis Rosa, an expert on Personal Finance Insider’s tax review board. 
  • See Personal Finance Insider’s picks for best tax software »

Federal tax returns and payments for 2020 are due on April 15. 

If you can’t get everything together in time for the deadline, you can file for a tax extension with the IRS, which pushes the due date for your return back six months to October 15.

Keep in mind that any federal tax payment you owe is due by April 15, regardless of whether you get an extension on your tax return. Deadlines for things like IRA contributions do not include the extension, except for some employer based plans like SEP IRAs.

How to file a tax extension

There are a few easy ways to get a tax extension:

  • File for an extension online for free, regardless of your income, with the IRS’ free filing partners, including H&R Block, TurboTax, and TaxAct.
  • Use IRS Form 4868 to send in your extension request by mail.
  • Make a payment on the IRS website or the IRS2GO mobile app that covers all or part of your estimated tax bill — it will automatically process an extension for your tax return.

Taxpayers who don’t file a tax return or a tax extension by the April deadline are charged a penalty of up to 5% of the outstanding tax bill for every month the return is late up to 25% of the unpaid taxes.

Is there a penalty for filing an extension?

There’s no penalty or additional charge for filing a tax extension. A tax extension doesn’t postpone your tax bill; if you don’t pay by the tax deadline, you’ll face a penalty and interest payments.

Generally, however, the penalty is waived for taxpayers who owe less than $1,000 or paid the lesser of 90% of their tax liability for the current year or 100% of the tax shown on the return for the prior year. That threshold rises to 110% of the tax shown on the return for taxpayers with an adjusted gross income (AGI) above $150,000 (or $75,000 for married filing separate).

A tax bill is the result of underpaying taxes throughout the year. Either your employer didn’t withhold enough money from your paycheck to cover your taxes (if so, consider increasing your tax withholding by completing Form W-4), or you had additional income throughout the year like capital gains from the sale of securities or property, or if you’re self-employed, you didn’t pay enough estimated quarterly taxes.

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