It's Tax Day. Here's how to request an extension

/ MoneyWatch

How to get more time on your taxes

Taxpayers this year have dealt with a slew of changes tied to the GOP tax cuts that became law at the end of 2017. But one number that hasn't budged from years past is the number of Americans waiting until the last minute to file. Nearly one-third of the tax returns expected to be filed this year had not been filed by April 6, the most recent date for which IRS data are available.

If you're one of those taxpayers, fear not. Getting an extension is a straightforward process that can typically be done in a few minutes, tax experts say.

Those not expecting a refund will need to take an extra step, however. The IRS doesn't typically grant more time to pay taxes, so if you need more time to file your tax return but expect to owe money, you'll have to pay 90 percent of what you owe.

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"The best way, if you're doing it on your own, is to use tax software and get as far as you can," said Jeanie Ahn of Yahoo Finance. "That number that ticks up and down in the corner explaining what you owe—pay that. And then say you want more time to file."

If you're working with an accountant on your taxes, they should also be able to estimate what you owe, Ahn said, although IRS figures show that overall slightly fewer taxpayers are getting professional help this season.

What to do if you have not yet filed your taxes

Done filing? Before you put away all your paperwork, you might want to tweak your paycheck withholdings for the rest of 2019 to get your take-home pay closer to what you need for next year's filing season, tax pros say. Taxpayers who receive an outsize tax refund—say, $3,000 or more—might prefer to get it in the form of bigger paychecks instead and so could benefit from withholding less each pay period. Likewise, if you end up owing, consider having more money taken out of your paycheck.

"A lot of tax changes were made this year, and people didn't know how it was going to shake out for them this year. Now that you do know, this is the time" to make changes, said Ahn.

"The refund, you control that. You can make it as big as you want," Mark Steber, chief tax officer for Jackson Hewitt, told CBS News last month. "People don't realize the latitude and the ease with which [they] can change it."

The IRS website offers a calculator to help determine your withholding amounts. Most large employers encourage their workers to make payroll changes online through the company website; otherwise, ask your employer for a Form W-4.

First published on April 15, 2019 / 11:33 AM

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