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Color of Money: No, filing an extension does not give you more time to pay your taxes

Michelle Singletary on

WASHINGTON -- Thank goodness the tax code allows for procrastination and the things in life that happen, including events that are out of your control.

You can achieve a reprieve by filling out IRS Form 4868: "Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return." The extension gives you six extra months to file your return.

Of course, there are a number of reasons you might need more time, even though the tax deadline falls around the same day every year -- April 15. The due date might move a little forward if April 15 falls on a weekend, but you know for the most part your tax return is due around that day.

The good thing is you don't have to make up any excuses or justify why you will miss the tax deadline.

"You don't have to explain why you're asking for the extension," the IRS informs filers in the instructions for Form 4868. "We'll contact you only if your request is denied."

Nearly one in 10 taxpayers file for an extension, and most of them now do it online, according to Eric Smith, a spokesman for the IRS. "We are projecting over 14.6 million extension requests this year," he said.

 

So, what's the No. 1 reason many people want an extension?

"They are not prepared to pay," said Deenice Galloway, a tax professional based in Maryland.

But then they get a shock.

"No, the extension doesn't give you more time to pay," Galloway says she has to tell people. "It doesn't stop the interest or the penalty. "

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