04/12/2012 05:26 pm ET Updated Jun 12, 2012

Filing a Tax Extension: 3 Things to Know Before the Deadline

If you're looking for extra time to file your tax return, you may be able to get an additional six months by filing for an extension. But keep in mind that, while a tax extension may be just the quick fix you need, it won't solve all of your problems. Do you need to buy some extra time to file? Here's what you need to know about filing an extension:

1. You must file a tax extension on or before the regular tax deadline.
Normally, tax returns and extensions are due on April 15 (remember that in 2012 we have an extra two days). An "extension" is a way to ask the IRS for more time to file your tax return. Usually, filing for an automatic extension will extend your filing deadline by six months (making your return due on Oct. 15 in 2012).

If you're filing for an extension this tax season, complete Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 4868: Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File for U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, and either submit it electronically (using IRS e-file) or get your paper Form 4868 postmarked and in the mail by April 17, 2012.

2. The money you owe is still due on the regular tax deadline.
In other words, you'll need to estimate the amount of taxes you owe and make a payment at the same time you file for an extension. That means paying at least 90 percent of the taxes you owe, otherwise you risk facing a late payment penalty. You can learn more about the price of late payment on the IRS Website or in H&R Block Tax Tip 30: Federal Income Tax Extension Information.

3. There are exceptions to the rule.
There are special considerations for U.S. citizens and resident aliens who are out of the country on the tax deadline (again, that's April 17 in 2012). That means that, if you meet the requirements, you may be eligible for an extra two months to file your return and pay what you owe. You can read more about these special rules on the IRS website or in H&R Block Tax Tip 30: Federal Income Tax Extension Information.

You can learn more about extensions of time to file your taxes on the IRS website. If you have additional questions about filing a tax extension, speak with your tax professional or accountant to learn more.

By Debbie DiVito, CPA, Content Manager, Women & Co.

About the Author:
As Women & Co.'s Content Manager, Debbie is responsible for creating original editorial content for Women & Co. In her role, Debbie couples more than seven years' experience supporting clients in the financial services industry with her passion for writing about important financial concepts in a way that is both unintimidating and fun. Debbie is a Certified Public Accountant, has undergraduate degrees in Finance, Multinational Business Operations, and Spanish from The Florida State University, and holds a Masters degree in Accounting from The University of Virginia.