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What To Do If You Miss the IRS Tax Filing Deadline – What if You Can’t Pay?

Whether you need to file a tax return or not depends on your gross income, filing status and age.  Generally, you’re not required to file a return if you’re under the filing threshold which is the combination of your standard deduction and exemption amounts.  You may still need to file a return to get money back due to over withholding or a refundable credit.  (See Publication 17)

There are situations where the taxpayer isn’t able to file a return by the April 15 deadline, has failed to file a return this year or in the past and is not able to pay his or her tax bill at the time of filing. Here’s what you need to know.


I can’t file my return on time

You’re allowed to get an automatic six-month extension if you file Form 4868 by April 15th, the due date of your return.  Instead of filing Form 4868, you can apply for an automatic extension by making an electronic payment by the due date.  Keep in mind that an extension request extends the time to file a return but not the time to pay your taxes.  If you do not pay your tax by the original due date, you will owe interest on the unpaid tax and may owe penalties.

If you live and work abroad, you have until June 15 to file, though your taxes are still due April 15.  If you are serving in Iraq, Afghanistan or other combat zones, you have until 180 days after you leave the combat zone to file and pay your taxes.

I haven’t filed a return this year or in prior years

Not filing a return may seem like a way to buy time or prolong the punishment for not paying your tax bill.

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