How to File IRS Form 4868

IRS Form 4868 Explained

Young woman working at a desk at home with laptop and paperwork

elenaleonova / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Form 4868 is submitted to the Internal Revenue Service to request additional time file your business's income tax return. Filing Form 4868 grants you a six-month extension to file, typically until October 15, or six months from the actual date when tax returns were due in any given year.

The IRS understands that things happen, so it offers this automatic extension of time to file, and the process is really very simple.

What Is IRS Form 4868?

Form 4868 is the "Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Tax Return." It must be filed on or before the usual April 15 filing deadline, unless you are out of the country at that time. You have until June 15 to file for an extension if you live in, and your place of business is outside, the U.S. or Puerto Rico. 

IRS Form 4868

The IRS extended the deadline for 2020 tax returns and payment to May 17, 2021. This gives an extra month to file the Form 4868, but that extra extension remains October 15.

Who Uses Form 4868?

Form 4868 is used for an extension of time to file personal tax returns, but you can use it to request an extension if you have a pass-through business entity and pay your business taxes as part of your personal tax return on Form 1040 or 1040-SR. Business income and deductions pass down to you to be reported personally. These business entities include:

  • Sole proprietorships and single-member LLCs reporting business income and deductions on Schedule C
  • Partners in partnerships and LLC owners of multiple-member LLCs who receive a Schedule K-1 showing their share of partnership income
  • S corporation shareholders receiving a Schedule K-1

Corporations, S corporations whose shareholders don't receive Schedules K-1, and partnerships must use Form 7004 instead of Form 4868 to request an extension. Different rules apply.

You can also ask for an extension by paying all or part of your income taxes due. The most common payment methods are Direct Pay, the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), or a credit or debit card. The IRS suggests more options for making tax payments on its website. You won’t have to file a separate extension form, and you'll get a confirmation number for your records.

Where to Get Form 4868

Form 4868 is available online on the IRS website. You can complete it online and print out a copy, or you can download the form.

How to Fill Out Form 4868

Form 4868 is a short form by IRS standards. It only asks for: 

  • Your name and your spouse's name if you're married and filing a joint return
  • Your address and Social Security number(s)
  • The estimate of your total tax liability (the amount that your preliminary calculations indicate you must pay for the year)
  • The total of any payments you've already made toward the taxes you owe 
  • The balance you still owe 
  • The amount you're paying with your extension request

Can Form 4868 Be E-Filed?

The IRS indicates that you can e-file Form 4868 at IRS Free File if your adjusted gross income is $72,000 or less. Most tax preparation software will e-file the form for you as well.

Where to Mail Form 4868

The IRS provides a list of addresses by state on its website for those who prefer to mail in Form 1040. The address will depend on your state of residence and whether you're also enclosing a payment.

Requirements for Filing Form 4868

Form 4868 doesn't give you more time to pay any taxes you owe—that balance was still due by April (unless extended, as in 2021), and penalties and interest will begin adding to any outstanding balance after the due date.

File Form 4868, claim your automatic extension, then pay the IRS any balance you owe as soon as possible. 

Paying up a little late is still generally less costly than not filing the extension, however, because the late-filing penalty can be up to 10 times more than the late-payment penalty.

Key Takeaways

  • IRS Form 4868 is a request for an automatic extension of time to file your tax return.
  • The form is technically for individual returns, but it’s appropriate for pass-through small business entities such as sole proprietorships and partnerships.
  • Submitting Form 4868 gives you an additional six months to file your tax return, but any taxes you owe are still usually due by April 15 (May 17 in 2021).