Don’t wait to file for an extension on your tax return

Congressional Democrats have been talking about providing an extension to the April 15 deadline for filing your tax return. The rules under the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and the five-week government shutdown earlier this year are good enough reasons for granting some extra time to taxpayers this year.

Just don’t count on it.

If you’re going to have trouble filing your return by the deadline, get a six-month extension until Oct. 15.

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IRS Form 4868 is a one-page document that will take about five minutes to fill out. You can send it by mail to one of the addresses provided by the IRS on its website at irs.gov or you can file it electronically through the agency’s electronic filing system, your own tax software provider or through your tax preparer. But file it.

“Just by filing for the extension before April 15, you can avoid potential penalties,” said Mark Jaeger, director of tax development at tax software provider TaxAct. “It’s a pretty straightforward process.”

The extension does not absolve taxpayers from the responsibility to pay any taxes they might owe by the April 15 deadline (Maine, Massachusetts and D.C. are slightly later). The key thing that taxpayers have to do to qualify for the extension is to estimate their tax liability for 2018 and, if they owe anything, pay at least some of it.

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