This weekend may not be very relaxing for millions of taxpayers. That’s because they are beginning the last-minute dash to file tax returns.
Even with the advent of electronic filing, many Americans may not be able to deliver their tax return before the Monday, 11:59 p.m. EDT deadline. If you’re in this group, it may be OK. The IRS will give you until Oct. 15 to file your return if you ask for an extension by midnight Monday. Last year, 10.7 million did just that.
But an extension won’t buy you more time if you owe federal income taxes. And failing to pay by Monday’s deadline means you will incur interest charges and fees on top of what you owe.
‘‘Your extension is not extending your payment time,’’ says Jackie Perlman, principal tax analyst at the research arm of H&R Block.
Here are some guidelines on extensions:
How to file: If you’re going to miss the deadline, file a request for an extension with the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS accepts extension requests several ways: by mail, via tax-preparation software, through a paid tax preparer, or online via the IRS website, www.irs.gov.
Select the right form: You must fill out IRS Form 4868, which is available on the IRS website, through most tax preparation software, as well as in public libraries and post offices.
If you opt to mail in the form, it has to be postmarked by Monday to be considered on time. Forms filed online can be sent in as late as 11:59 p.m. EDT on Monday.
Estimate what you owe: When you fill out the form, the IRS requires that you estimate how much you owe in taxes and pay that amount.
Pay up, avoid penalties: Failing to pay your tax bill by the Monday deadline means you’ll incur interest and penalty charges.
The IRS assesses a monthly penalty of 0.5 percent of the balance owed, plus interest of 3 percent per year, compounded daily.
The last thing you want to do is miss the tax filing deadline and not ask for an extension. That triggers a penalty of 5 percent of the tax owed for each month the tax return is late.
Consider a payment agreement: If you can’t pay the full amount you owe on time, you may be able to set up a payment plan. Taxpayers who owe $50,000 or less can arrange to pay on a monthly basis for up to 72 months.
You’ll need to fill out and mail IRS Form 9465, which can be downloaded on the IRS website, along with your tax return.
The IRS also may determine you’re eligible for an ‘‘offer-in-compromise,’’ which essentially allows taxpayers to pay less than what they owe.
To figure out if you’re eligible, use the pre-qualifier tool on the IRS website.
If you’re due a refund: If you’re due a refund but won’t be able to file your return on time, it’s not necessary to file for an extension.
‘‘The extension, for the most part, is for folks that owe taxes and need to gather their paperwork,’’ says IRS spokeswoman Anabel Marquez.