How to file a tax extension

A man does his taxes on his phone using TurboTax.  Her phone screen shows the text

Photo: Kimberly White (Getty Images)

Why the IRS ‘informational’s feel like a throwback to those old low-quality, low-res 90s workplaces bullying seminars? Because even when you file your taxes electronically, you’re essentially forced into a time gap between conscious thought and the empty void that points to a boardroom. You insert inconsistent numbers into a machine and expect God it produces a positive return at the end.

Yes, you need to do something about your taxes. Yes, you might end up going through a website that is trying to hard sell you from their ‘free deposit options. Yes, it will take you a good part of your free time.

But there are ways to be smart about it, and getting an extension is honestly a good option, especially as the IRS fell behind in processing last year’s returns. That’s why we’re here to give you tips on how and where to deposit and the best way to get an extension if you need one.

Where can I send an electronic file?

Despite the near dominance of sites like TurboTax and H&R Block in the tax filing market, there are other ways to file electronically, although some official options suggested by the IRS are more convoluted than others. The IRS requires these sites to offer a free electronic filing option, but there is no real regulation on how much these companies try to sell you when filing. Gotta love paying for the privilege of giving government information it already knows about you.

So if you can, it’s probably the best is to find a free service. The IRS does not offer an in-house option to file based on an agreement he struck with reporting companies two decades ago. These sites also have restrictions based on your adjusted annual income, although most allow depositing if you earn $73,000 per year or less. There may also be restrictions depending on the state you live in. Some, like the free version of TaxAct, do not allow free state tax filing.

You can also enter all the numbers yourself using the IRS form fillable documents, but this will require you to create an account on the IRS site, which in itself can be time consuming as it you will need to have a ID like a driver’s license or passport at your fingertips, and also scan your face to ID.ME. It’s also the longest option, and since it’s already tax day, it’s best to ask for an extension or use the other tax filing options.

TurboTax is often considered the easiest electronic file option to use. They contain many tooltips to help you know which form to fill out and where to find the information the system needs. You can also simply upload your W-2 and it will automatically fill in all the necessary boxes. It also helps if you use them year after year, as some of your profile information is saved. The catch is that they’re also incredibly predatory in the way they try to sell you, and despite advertising the free offer, they are also one of the more expensive options if you get tricked into giving them money to deposit.

Other free options include:

How do I get a tax extension?

Most of the free file options listed above also allow you to submit for the extension. You can log into any of these sites and answer the questions to submit for the extension.

It’s actually an option for you to write down your tax payable and then pay what you owe. The IRS will charge a 3% interest on the outstanding balance until the full amount is submitted, and there will likely be additional charges for each month they are not paid.

This extension gives you until October 15 to declare your taxes. You’ll need to note what you’ve already paid on the extension when you file your taxes later this year.

If you do not wish to use these electronic file platforms, you will need to submit a shape to the taxman. As it is already Tax Dyes, your the best option would be filing the form online via electronic file providers.

There is no penalty for filing the form at the last minute, but there can certainly be repercussions if you don’t file anything at all. You should receive a notification that the extension request has been submitted. There are also ways to track the status of your application.

What should I know about filing taxes this year?

There were several changes between last year and this year’s reporting that may affect your reporting, but if you’re like most people, it’s not as much as you think. On the one hand, if you were unemployed last year and you were unemployed, you will probably still have to pay taxes on that unemployment income, compared to 2020 when there was at least some protection from unemployment taxes.

Most people will claim a standard deduction, which has been adjusted for inflation from $150 up to $12,550 individually or $25,100 for those filing jointly.

If you’re one of those lucky few who managed to get your student loans forgiven in 2021, you’ll no longer have to pay taxes on those loans thanks to the US bailout. This new law lasts until 2025, so better start thinking about how you can get or at least plead for forgivenessif possible, to save the most on that damn degree.

Tax brackets have been changedand some people may find that if they were in a slice, they were moved back to lower support. For most people, this won’t change the way you deposit, but it’s still something to note.

The amount you can recover on your return of charitable donations has also been expanded thanks to the CARES Act. You can recover $300 per charitable donation to an eligible organization, and if you file jointly, you can even recover $300 from each individual. This probably won’t work if you make a standard deduction, which is automatically selected with most free deposit systems.

A final remark

Just a reminder, the main reason you insist on taxes is that companies like Intuit, which owns TurboTax, and H&R Block did a lot of lobbying to quash any mention of a no return program, or even for the IRS to invest in its own free file system.

So part of the reason we have this headache every year is because these big fintech companies are making too much money from the laborious nature of filing our taxes. Don’t want to be depressing, especially since you’ll probably be spending your lunch or evening today filling out last-minute forms. Think green instead pastures, the horizon is only a thin pencil line separating the land from a blue sky ocean. There is no 1098 query box in sight. There is only the soft, vibrant melodies of a violin playing on a nearby hill.

Then, once you are calm and relaxed, an alarm will sound in your ear. TurboTax stands there with a megaphone. He wasks you to do your taxes, and it reminds you that if you only spend $50, they’ll help you itemize your deductions, and for just $30 more and more…and so on…

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