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Get a Tax Extension? What You Need to Know for Oct. 15

The following is a guest post by Alan Kalman. 

Tax form W2

Fall is in the air and with it comes NFL football, the baseball playoffs, Halloween - and filing tax returns. More than a million of you who did not file your 2011 tax returns in April asked for the automatic six-month extension to Oct. 15.

So get out all those forms (W-2s and 1099s) you received, and all your tax receipts and records and get started since time is running out. Filing by Oct. 15 is no different than filing in April.  You can file your return either electronically or on paper.

As a reminder, your extension to Oct. 15 was an extension to file, not an extension to pay. If you knew that you were going to owe, you should have sent that payment with your extension. If you do owe tax come Oct. 15, just send the amount you owe with your return. The IRS will bill you the late payment penalty and interest. If you also obtained an extension for filing state income tax, then the same rules apply to that return.

If you cannot pay what you owe, the IRS has both formal and informal plans for paying your taxes. It's an informal plan if you can pay within 60 to 120 days, and a more formal plan if you need more time. Call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040, follow the voice prompts, and tell the representative that you are filing a timely tax return but cannot pay in full. Under no circumstances should you delay filing just because you can't pay the tax due. This will subject you to failure to file penalties in addition to the other penalties.

Just like everything else in life, there are some exceptions to the Oct. 15 filing deadline. Military personnel in combat zones don't have to file until six months after they leave the combat zone area, or six months after any continuous hospitalization from injury in the combat zone. In addition, certain individuals affected by a federally declared disaster may also be given additional time to file.

For more information on whether you are in a federal disaster zone, go to the IRS website at and enter the words "tax relief" in the search box. Military members can obtain more information on their tax benefits at Tax Information for Members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

One more reminder: If you filed a timely return in April and you converted a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA for 2011, Oct. 15 is your last chance to act if you've decided you'd like to reverse that transaction. The trustee or custodian must complete the reversal, known as a recharacterization, by the tax filing deadline.

Mr. Kalman has a Masters of Science in Taxation from San Jose State University. He currently is an instructor and volunteer with the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Program in Santa Fe, N.M. He owns and maintains the website Tax Resources on The Web  as a public service. Through the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program, AARP Foundation provides online tax counseling as a public service, and cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information provided. Your taxes are your responsibility. You are solely responsible for what you do in your own tax situation.

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Alan Kalman

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