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2023 Tax Extension: Deadline, Rules, How To File

(Originally published April 8, 2022) If the deadline to file your 2022 federal income tax return is sneaking up on you too fast, you might be wondering if you can get a little more time. Find out if filing for an extension is the right option for you.

Portrait of Katie J. Skipper

Katie J. Skipper (She, Her, Hers)
BECU Community Content Manager
Jan 31, 2023 in: Taxes

Whether you're waiting for a tax form that got lost in the mail or doing things at the last minute is just your style, the tax deadline is rapidly approaching. Miss the deadline, and you could be facing costly penalties.

Fortunately, if you know you're just not going to get it done on time, you can file for an extension. While this option gives you six more months to file, the extension doesn't kick in automatically if you miss the deadline and an extension to file your tax return doesn't come with an extension to pay.

Here's what you need to know — and what you need to do — to extend your tax deadline.

Normal Tax Return Deadline

If you're used to Tax Day being April 15, you might be surprised to learn you have three extra days to file your tax return in 2023. That's because the deadline for most taxpayers to file their 2022 federal income tax return is April 18 this year.

Why are taxes due April 18, 2023?

The tax filing deadline is a little later this year because Washington, D.C., is celebrating Emancipation Day on April 17. By law, holidays in the nation's capital affect tax deadlines just like federal holidays.

Penalties for Missing the Tax Deadline

Missing the tax filing deadline triggers the Failure to File Penalty. The IRS calculates this penalty as 5% of your unpaid taxes for each month your tax return is late. After 60 days, the minimum penalty goes up to $435 or 100% of what you owe, whichever is less. The penalty is capped at 25% of your unpaid taxes.

If you owe money and don't pay by the tax deadline, you'll also trigger the Failure to Pay Penalty. The IRS calculates this penalty as 0.5% of your unpaid taxes for each month the tax is unpaid, up to 25% of your unpaid taxes.

If you trigger the Failure to File and Failure to Pay penalties at the same time, the combined penalty is 5% of your unpaid taxes for each month you were late.

There are more types of penalties, including penalties for underpayment, claiming less income than you earn and not supplying required information.

The IRS charges interest on penalties and underpayment, and pays interest on overpayment.

How an Extension Works

If you need more time to complete your tax return, you can apply for a filing extension, but be aware that a filing extension doesn't give you extra time to pay any taxes you owe. The IRS still expects you to estimate and pay your taxes by April 18. 

The extension application is a short, simple form, IRS tax form 4868 (PDF). It asks for your name, address, Social Security number and estimated tax liability.

You don't have to explain why you want an extension. A filing extension gives you six more months to complete your tax return.

The tax extension deadline is usually Oct. 15, but since that's a Sunday this year, the extension deadline is Monday, Oct. 16, 2023.

Once you file, you don't have to wait for confirmation or approval. You'll only hear from the IRS if your extension request is denied, according to the general instructions on form 4868.

Ways To File an Extension Application

The IRS offers several ways to apply for an extension:

  • IRS e-file: This is the IRS's electronic filing program. You can choose either guided tax preparation or Free File fillable forms. Be sure to start the process on the IRS website. If you go directly to a company website, you won't be participating in the IRS's Free File option.
  • Electronic payment: If you make an electronic payment, the IRS will automatically process a filing extension.
  • E-file with tax software or a tax professional: Check your tax preparation software or talk with your tax professional about how to file for an extension.
  • Paper filing: You can download and print a paper form from the IRS website. You can also order a paper copy of form 4868 from the Forms and Publications by U.S. Mail page or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676). Fill it out and mail it to the IRS according to the mailing instructions included with the form.

What happens if I miss the extension deadline?

Just like if you miss the original April filing deadline, failure to file your tax return by the extended deadline can lead to penalties and interest.

If you get a filing extension for the 2021 tax year, be sure you file your tax return by Oct. 16, 2023, to avoid paying more than you have to.

What if I can't afford to pay my taxes?

The only way to avoid penalties with certainty is by paying your taxes on time. If you can't afford to pay all of your taxes, pay as much as you can by the filing deadline and request a payment plan for the rest.

Whether you qualify for a payment plan depends on your tax situation. The IRS offers long-term and short-term payment plans to qualifying taxpayers.

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The above article is intended to provide generalized financial information designed to educate a broad segment of the public; it does not give personalized tax, investment, legal, or other business and professional advice. Before taking any action, you should always seek the assistance of a professional who knows your situation for advice on taxes, your investments, the law, or any other business and professional matters that affect you and/or your business.

Portrait of Katie J. Skipper

Katie J. Skipper (She, Her, Hers)
BECU Community Content Manager

Katie writes for BECU about personal finance and social justice topics. Her career spans reporting for newspapers and communicating on behalf of government agencies and private businesses. Learn about Katie's career and education on LinkedIn.