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2024 Tax Extension: Deadline, Rules, How To File

If the deadline to file your 2023 federal income tax return is sneaking up on you too fast, you might be wondering if you can get a little more time. Find out if filing for an extension is the right option for you.

Portrait of Katie J. Skipper

Katie J. Skipper (She, Her, Hers)
BECU Community Content Manager
Updated Mar 14, 2024 in: Taxes

Read time: 4 minutes

Whether you're waiting for a tax form that got lost in the mail or doing things at the last minute is just your style, the tax deadline is rapidly approaching. Miss the deadline, and you could be facing costly penalties.

Fortunately, if you know you're just not going to get it done on time, you can file for an extension. While this option gives you six more months to file, the extension doesn't kick in automatically if you miss the deadline, and an extension to file your tax return doesn't come with an extension to pay.

Here's what you need to know — and what you need to do — to extend your tax deadline.

Normal Tax Return Deadline

The deadline for most people who need to file a personal tax return is Monday, April 15, 2024.

For taxpayers in Maine and Massachusetts, the deadline is two days later, on April 17, 2024, because Patriots' Day conflicts with the tax filing deadline in those states this year.

Special deadlines and rules may apply to members of the military serving in combat zones and residents of states in federally declared disaster areas.

How Extensions Work

If you need more time to complete your tax return, you can apply for a filing extension, but be aware that a filing extension doesn't give you extra time to pay any taxes you owe. The IRS still expects you to estimate and pay your taxes by April 15, 2024. 

The extension application is a short, simple form, IRS tax form 4868 (PDF). It asks for your name, address, Social Security number and estimated tax liability.

You don't have to explain why you want an extension. A filing extension gives you six more months to complete your tax return.

The tax extension deadline is Oct. 15, 2024.

Once you file, you don't have to wait for confirmation or approval. You'll only hear from the IRS if your extension request is denied, according to the general instructions on form 4868.

Ways To File an Extension Application

The IRS offers several ways to apply for an extension:

  • IRS e-file: This is the IRS's electronic filing program. You can choose either guided tax preparation or Free File fillable forms. Be sure to start the process on the IRS website. If you go directly to a company website, you won't be participating in the IRS's Free File option.
  • Electronic payment: If you make an electronic payment, the IRS will automatically process a filing extension.
  • E-file with tax software or a tax professional: Check your tax preparation software or talk with your tax professional about how to file for an extension.
  • Paper filing: You can download and print a paper form from the IRS website. You can also order a paper copy of form 4868 from the Forms and Publications by U.S. Mail page or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676). Fill it out and mail it to the IRS according to the mailing instructions included with the form.

Penalties for Missing the Tax Deadline

Failure To File Penalty

Missing the tax filing deadline triggers the Failure to File Penalty. The IRS calculates this penalty as 5% of your unpaid taxes for each month your tax return is late. After 60 days, the minimum penalty goes up to $435 or 100% of what you owe, whichever is less. The penalty is capped at 25% of your unpaid taxes.

Failure To Pay Penalty

If you owe money and don't pay by the tax deadline, you'll also trigger the Failure to Pay Penalty. The IRS calculates this penalty as 0.5% of your unpaid taxes for each month the tax is unpaid, up to 25% of your unpaid taxes.

If you trigger the Failure to File and Failure to Pay penalty at the same time, the combined penalty is 5% of your unpaid taxes for each month you were late.

There are more types of penalties, including penalties for underpayment, claiming less income than you earn and not supplying required information.

The IRS charges interest on penalties and underpayment, and pays interest on overpayment.

Relief for Failure To Pay During Pandemic

If you didn't receive an automated tax collection reminder notice during the pandemic and you owe back taxes, you might be eligible for relief from any failure-to-pay penalty you received.

An estimated $1 billion in penalties, or about $206 per return, will be waived for about 5 million tax returns for tax years 2020 and 2021.

In 2022, the IRS suspended mailing automated follow-up reminders, but the failure-to-pay penalties continued to accrue for those who didn't pay their total tax bill. The IRS is resuming sending reminders.

What Happens if I Miss the Extension Deadline?

Just like if you miss the original April filing deadline, failure to file your tax return by the extended deadline can lead to penalties and interest.

If you get a filing extension, be sure you file your tax return by Oct. 15, 2024, to avoid paying more than you have to.

What if I Can't Afford To Pay My Taxes?

The only way to avoid penalties with certainty is by paying your taxes on time. If you can't afford to pay all of your taxes, pay as much as you can by the filing deadline and request a payment plan for the rest.

Whether you qualify for a payment plan depends on your tax situation. The IRS offers long-term and short-term payment plans to qualifying taxpayers.

Related Content

The above article is intended to provide generalized financial information designed to educate a broad segment of the public; it does not give personalized tax, investment, legal, or other business and professional advice. Before taking any action, you should always seek the assistance of a professional who knows your situation for advice on taxes, your investments, the law, or any other business and professional matters that affect you and/or your business.

Portrait of Katie J. Skipper

Katie J. Skipper (She, Her, Hers)
BECU Community Content Manager

Katie writes for BECU about personal finance and social justice topics. Her career spans reporting for newspapers and communicating on behalf of government agencies and private businesses. Learn about Katie's career and education on LinkedIn.