How to file an income-tax extension with the IRS

By Paul EngConsumer Reports

Tuesday is the deadline for filing your 2013 federal income tax return to the Internal Revenue Service this year. But do you need to file for an extension? Thankfully, it's pretty easy to get an extension for filing an income tax return. The IRS’ Free File system online allows you to prepare and file electronic Form 1040s as well as Form 4868, the form needed to file an extension.

If you're not using Free File, yo can use tax-preparation software, such as TurboTax and H&R Block, to electronically fill out and file IRS Form 4868.

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But be careful. Filing an extension doesn't mean you can procrastinate forever—or without any concerns.

Check our income tax guide for more advice and tips on preparing and filing your return.

If you think you owe income taxes for 2013, you'll need to send a payment of your estimated tax payment to the IRS along with your Form 4868 by Tuesday. Otherwise, the IRS will add penalties and interest for the original tax payment. Word of warning: Paying by credit card may be convenient and earn you miles or points, but it can backfire if you’re not careful.

Naturally, if you're expecting a refund from the IRS for the income taxes you already paid in 2013, there's no penalty in asking for extension—except for the fact that the government will have your money. And if you fail to file your tax return within three years of the due date, the government gets to keep any refund!

Paul Eng

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