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Haven’t Done Your Taxes Yet? Don’t Panic

Read on to learn how to get help or an extension

1040 tax form with a sticky note saying april 15th


En español | Have you filed your taxes? About 50 million Americans still need to do so, according to the IRS. The agency has already received about two-thirds of the 150 million–plus returns expected for tax year 2018. With just a few days left until the mid-April deadline, experts say there’s still enough time to finish your return or file for an extension. Here’s what you need to know.

What’s my deadline?

Taxpayers in most states must file by April 15. Residents of Maine and Massachusetts have until April 17 to file their returns because of the April 15 Patriots’ Day holiday in those states, followed by an IRS closure on April 16 due to the Emancipation Day holiday observed in Washington, D.C.

Where can I find help?

You can get help preparing and submitting your return, whether you’d like to work directly with an accountant or use a free option like AARP Foundation Tax-Aide, which offers no-cost tax preparation assistance to low- and moderate-income Americans through April 15. 

(For locations, check the Tax-Aide Site Locator or call 888-227-7669 toll-free.)

Professional tax preparers and accountants can also help, but their availability is likely limited at this point in the season, says Ruth Godfrey, a tax preparer and member of the California Tax Education Council.

Godfrey recommends searching for a qualified preparer through a professional organization such as the National Society of Accountants. Be sure to bring to your appointment any relevant documents, like closing statements from a property sale or 1099-B brokerage forms. 

Do-it-yourself software options from providers including H&R Block and the IRS Free File service are also available and are generally set up to allow you to file for an extension if you need one (more on that below).

For ways to save and more, get AARP’s monthly Money newsletter.

How can I get an extension?

If you need more time to figure out your return, there’s no need to wait until the April deadline to request an extension. Submit IRS Form 4868 to receive an extra six months, which gives you until Oct. 15 to file your 2018 return. 

You’ll need to submit this form by April 15 or 17 (whichever applies to you) to avoid a late-filing penalty, which starts at 5 percent of tax owed for each month the return is late, up to a maximum penalty of 25 percent.  

If you also need an extension on your state taxes, check with your state tax authority. Requirements vary, and you may need to submit extra forms.

What if I owe?

“An extension to file is not an extension to pay,” says Godfrey. That means if you owe federal taxes (and want to avoid penalties and interest), your estimated payment to the IRS is still due by the April deadline, even if you submitted Form 4868 on time. 

For more information or to submit payment alongside a request for an extension, visit

No matter your situation, Godfrey says, the place to start is by sitting down and getting your paperwork together. “Take a deep breath,” she says, “and look at your numbers. You’ve got three weeks to figure it out.”

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