When, Where, and How to File

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April 15 each year is the due date for filing your Federal individual income tax return, if your tax year ends December 31st. Your return is considered filed timely if the envelope is properly addressed and postmarked no later than April 15. If you use a fiscal year (which is a year ending on the last day of any month other than December), your return is due on or before the 15th day of the fourth month after the close of your fiscal year. If the due date falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the due date is delayed until the next business day (i.e., Tax Year 2006 is due April 17, 2007).

If you cannot file by the due date of your return, then you can request an extension of time to file. However, an extension of time to file is not an extension of time to pay. You will owe interest on any past-due tax and you may be subject to a late-payment penalty if payment is not made timely. To receive an automatic 6-month extension of time to file your return, you can file Form 4868 (PDF) by the due date of your return. For more information, refer to the Form 4868 Instructions.

If you are a United States citizen or resident, whose home and main place of business or post of duty is outside the United States and Puerto Rico on the due date of your return, you are allowed an automatic extension until June 15, to file your return and pay any tax due. This also applies if you are in military or naval service on duty outside the United States and Puerto Rico.

If you use this automatic extension, you must attach a statement to your return showing that you met the requirements for the extension on the due date of your return. Refer to IRS Topic 304 (Extensions of Time to File Your Tax Return) for more information about extensions. If you are serving in a combat zone or in a contingency operation (or are hospitalized as a result of an injury received while serving in such an area or operation), you have at least 180 days after you leave the designated combat zone/contingency operation to file and pay taxes. See Publication 3, Armed Forces' Tax Guide. If you are determined by the Service to be affected by a Presidentially declared disaster or a terroristic or military action, then you may have up to one year after the due date of your return to file and pay taxes, depending on the deadline specified by the Service.

When filing your return, use the peel-off label that is included in your tax package. Check the label to be sure the information is correct. Make any corrections or additions right on the label. If you did not receive a tax return package with a label, print or type your name, address and social security number in the spaces provided. If you are filing Form 1040EZ (PDF), you must print this information. Be sure the social security number is the same number listed on your social security card. If you have changed your name you should notify the Social Security Administration or call 1-800-772-1213 before you file your return.

If a joint return is filed, both husband and wife must sign the return. If your spouse cannot sign because of disease or injury and requests that you sign the return, sign your spouse's name in the proper place followed by the word "by" your signature, followed by the word "husband" or "wife". Be sure to also sign in the space provided for your signature. In addition, you must attach a statement that includes the form number of the return you are filing, the tax year, the reason your spouse cannot sign the return, and that your spouse has agreed to your signing for him or her. If you are the guardian for your spouse who is mentally incompetent, you may sign the return for your spouse, as guardian.

If your spouse cannot sign the return for any other reason, you may sign it only if you are given a valid power of attorney. The document granting you power of attorney should be attached to the return when it is filed. Form 2848 (PDF), Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative, may be used for this purpose.

If you are filing a return for a minor child who cannot sign the return, sign the child's name followed by the word "by", your signature, and your relationship, such as "parent" or "guardian of minor child".

For information on signing a return for a decedent, refer to IRS Topic 356 (Decedents).

Be sure to attach the Form W-2 (PDF) and the Form 1099-R (PDF) that show Federal income tax withheld to the front of the return. If you are filing Form 1040 (PDF), be sure to attach all related schedules and forms behind your return in order of the sequence number located in the upper right hand corner of the schedule or form.

If you owe tax, make your check or money order payable to the United States Treasury, and enclose it with your return. On the front of your check or money order, please show your name, address, social security number, daytime phone number, the tax year and type of form you are filing (for example, "2003 Form 1040"). Do not mail cash with your return. You can also use a credit card to pay the tax due by calling 1-800-2paytax (1-800-272-9829). Refer to your form instructions for more information.

If you cannot pay the amount owed with the return, refer to IRS Topic 201 (The Collection Process), The Collection Process, for more information.

Mail your return to the address given in the tax form instructions for the area where you live. If possible, use the pre-addressed envelope that came with your booklet. If you are mailing payment or owe tax, follow additional instructions in your tax package.

You may want to file electronically! When you file electronically, you usually receive your refund within 3 weeks after the IRS has received your return, even faster if you have it directly deposited into your checking or savings account. Many professional tax return preparers offer electronic filing of tax returns in addition to their return preparation services. A fee may be charged. For more information on electronic filing, click on the e-file logo on the home page of irs.gov.

Source: IRS.gov IRS Topic 301

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