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Extension Benefits and Filing Requirements

Updated March 15, 2024

With the looming April 15th tax deadline, many individuals face challenges in gathering the necessary information to file their income tax returns on time. Extensions have become an increasingly common practice in recent years, especially given delays in receiving tax documents from brokers and other sources, sometimes not until mid-February or later. This compressed timeframe for completing returns by the April deadline, coupled with fewer available accountants in most firms, underscores the importance of understanding and utilizing extensions effectively. 

It is important to remember that April 15th serves as a payment deadline, not a filing deadline. If you require additional time, an automatic filing extension is available.  However, it is essential to note that any projected tax liability remains due by the original deadline to avoid penalties when your return is eventually filed. 

Here are several considerations and benefits associated with filing for an extension.  

Benefits of Filing for an Extension: 

1. Ensure Accuracy: Filing an extension allows for extra time to gather complete documentation, including any corrected 1099 forms from brokerage accounts. This can help avoid the need for amendments to your return, which can be costly, time-consuming, and potentially draw greater attention from the IRS.  Rushing to meet the April deadline can lead to errors or omissions on your tax return. The extension also provides you with additional time to review your documents and returns thoroughly.  

2. Maximize Tax Savings: Extending your return provides your accountant with additional time to evaluate your information thoroughly, identifying potential tax-saving opportunities and engaging in forward-looking tax planning. It also allows for strategic planning opportunities, such as maximizing retirement contributions to SEP Plans or other retirement vehicles. 

3. Avoiding Hasty Decisions: Rushing through the tax-filing process can result in hasty decisions regarding deductions, credits, or other tax strategies. By extending the deadline, taxpayers can carefully evaluate their options and make informed decisions that maximize their tax benefits. 

4. No Penalties for Filing an Extension: The government does not penalize taxpayers for filing an extension, provided any projected tax liability is paid by the original deadline (April 15th). Contrary to popular belief, filing an extension does not increase the likelihood of an IRS audit, as audit selection criteria primarily focus on specific income or reporting discrepancies. 

5. Access to Tax Professionals: Tax professionals may experience high demand leading up to the April deadline.  Filing for an extension allows you to access tax professionals when they have more availability, ensuring personalized attention and comprehensive support for your tax preparation needs. 

6. Avoid Late Penalties: Rushing to meet the April deadline increases the risk of missing it altogether, potentially resulting in late filing penalties. Opting for an extension provides additional time to complete your return accurately and prevents such penalties. 

7. Flexibility for Complex Situations: Individuals with complex financial situations, such as those involving multiple sources of income, investments, or business interests, may require more time to gather and organize their financial information. Filing for an extension offers the flexibility needed to navigate these complexities effectively and accurately. 

8. Peace of Mind: Filing for an extension can alleviate the stress and pressure associated with meeting the original filing deadline. It provides peace of mind knowing that you have additional time to prepare your return properly and address any unforeseen circumstances that may arise. 

How It Works: 

While payments cannot be delayed, filing for an extension grants an additional six months to complete your tax returns. You or your accountant must project any tax liability to avoid penalties, as well as calculate any quarterly estimate requirements for the current tax year. Most extensions can be electronically filed, and any necessary payments can be made online or by mail. 

After Filing for an Extension: 

Our team continues working on tax filings beyond the April 15th deadline. Once we receive all your information, we will work diligently to complete your return and keep you informed of any delays. Extensions afford us the time for a thorough review and provide you with breathing room to gather necessary documents, often minimizing the need for amended filings. This ensures a smoother process for everyone involved. 

Questions or concerns?  Do not hesitate to contact us for help or additional information. 

About the Author

Elaine Cain, CPA

As the leader of our Family Wealth Services Team, Elaine provides comprehensive tax, estate, trust, and gift planning and advisory services to wealthy families and individuals. Elaine also has extensive experience in conducting audits and providing tax compliance and consulting services to nonprofits and governmental entities.One of Elaine’s greatest strengths is her ability to explain financial matters in terms non-accountants can understand, and to proactively inform YHB clients of developments that may affect them.