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Pay Your Taxes Late?

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You're nowhere near ready to figure out your taxes and the filing deadline is only six weeks away. Here's an option: file IRS Form 4868 to request an automatic extension, which gives you until October 15 to get your act together.

The deadline for filing your 1040 is only about six weeks away, but you’re not anywhere near ready to sit down and figure it all out. Here’s an option: you can file IRS Form 4868 to request an automatic extension, which gives you until October 15 to get your act together.

Those who are in the middle of a home purchase, for example, and who want to take advantage of the home buyer tax credit, may want to put off filing until the deal is finalized.

If you’re due to get a refund and are eager to get your hands on it, you can always file on time and file an amended return later. According to tax experts, however, asking for an extension is usually a better idea. The primary problem with filing an amended return, say the tax mavens, is that those returns are audited at a far higher rate than returns that are filed late. It may be better to postpone getting that refund, they say, in favor of avoiding a possible audit. In addition, an extended return can be filed electronically; amended returns must be on paper.

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Remember, the extension to file is not an extension to pay. You should estimate your tax bill and submit payment along with your request for an extension. If it turns out you owe more than what you pay, you’ll have to pony up the difference, plus interest. If you paid too much, the IRS will pay you back the overage, also with interest.

Some taxpayers, however, can delay payment until they actually file. Those eligible include military personnel serving in a combat zone, who have until 180 days after they leave the combat zone to file and pay.


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