The Common Law

Tax return – can I get an extension?

Can I ask the Internal Revenue Service for an extension to file my tax return if I can't submit it by the deadline? How does the extension work?

Need more time to put together all the paperwork necessary to submit your federal 2006 tax return? If yes, you may still be in luck. The IRS allows individuals to request an extension of time in order to file their tax returns.

Someone interested in an extension may consider submitting Form 4868, which is called the Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. By submitting Form 4868, the person may be able to obtain an automatic six-month extension. The extension is generally four months for someone considered to be "out of the country."

It is important to know that obtaining an extension of time to file a tax return is not an extension of time to pay. Someone who requests the extension must still make an accurate estimate of her tax for 2006 and send any necessary payment with Form 4868. Someone who cannot pay the full amount due with Form 4868 may still get the extension, although she will owe interest on the unpaid amount.

Form 4868 must be filed before the normal filing deadline (this year the deadline is April 16 because April 15 is a Sunday). Once Form 4868 is filed, the person can file the completed tax return any time during the extension period.

Keep in mind that whether an extension is advisable is an individual decision that is unique to each person. While it's good to know that the option exists, you should talk with an attorney or accountant to determine how the extension may affect your situation. Anyone interested in learning more about obtaining an extension to file your tax return along with payment options should go to www.irs.gov.

Be sure to read next week's "Common Law" column, which will discuss some nuts-and-bolts issues related to filing a tax return and holding onto tax records.

Please submit column suggestions, questions, and comments to thecommonlaw@austinchronicle.com. Submission of potential topics does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information submitted is subject to being included in future columns.

Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP, www.jmehlaw.com.

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or www.austinlrs.com.

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