TAX DAY IN THE GOOD OLD USA – WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE NOT READY TO FILE YOUR TAX RETURN

As the clock ticks toward midnight on Tax Day, it's nice to know that the IRS will give you a six-month reprieve, no questions asked.

If you need more time to file your taxes, form 4868 is what you need to get an extension. To get this stay of execution, file Form 4868. You can fill it out and file it electronically through the IRS Free File program, www.freefile.irs.gov , a partnership between the IRS and private tax-preparation companies. Several participants provide free e-filing of extension requests, regardless of income.

Alternatively, you can print out a copy of Form 4868 and mail it to the IRS. Just make sure it's postmarked April 17 to avoid late filing penalties. Once you've e-filed or mailed your extension request, you have until Oct. 15 to file your return.

Procrastination isn't the only reason millions of taxpayers file for an extension every year. Some ask for more time to file because they haven't received all of the documents they need to prepare their taxes. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney announced on Friday that he, too, has filed for an extension on his 2011 tax return.

If you owe money to the IRS, you should estimate your tax bill and include payment when you file your extension, the IRS says. The IRS accepts credit cards, although you'll have to pay a "convenience fee" of 1.89% to 3.93% of your payment.

Taxpayers who have no cash or credit with which to pay the IRS should still file Form 4868 by midnight. You'll owe interest and penalties on the unpaid balance, but you'll avoid the more punitive failure-to-file penalty of 5% per month of your unpaid balance, up to 25% of the amount you owe

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