If everything seems to have piled up and you haven't been able to get to your income tax return yet--don't panic! IRS Form 4868 may be the answer to your problem.
Filing Form 4868 by April 15 gets you an extension of the due date for filing your individual federal income tax return until Aug. 15. That's two months later than the June 15 extension date of prior years.
Form 4868 is called an "Application for Automatic Extension." In fact, it isn't really an "application" at all, but simply a notification to the IRS that you are delaying the filing of your federal tax return.
No approval from the IRS is required, and you will get no response from the IRS to filing the form. But when you do file the return later, you must attach a copy of the complete Form 4868 to the return itself.
Note that we're talking here only about an extension for filing; this procedure does not provide for a delay in paying any tax deficiency. On Form 4868 you must estimate what your final tax liability will be, and pay any estimated shortfall with it.
Since you have not yet completed your tax return, obviously you're not likely to come up with an exact dollar amount--but your estimate should be reasonably close.
If it turns out, when you file the return, that you have guessed too low, you will be charged interest on the shortage from April 16 to the date of payment. The current IRS interest rate is 16 percent a year.
If your estimate on Form 4868 is more than 10 percent lower than the total tax liability turns out to be (when you finally compute the tax on your return), you may be subject to a penalty--in addition to the interest--of as much as 25 percent of the unpaid amount.
Since the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia base their individual tax returns on the federal figures, you will probably need an extension of time for filing your state return as well.
All three jurisdictions require that you forward payment for any balance of state tax due with your request for extension. But the extension procedures are different in each case.
Forwarding a copy of federal Form 4868 to the Comptroller of the Treasury at the same time as the federal request is filed will result in an automatic 60-day extension for a Maryland resident.
But if you need the full 120 days provided by the federal rules, you must request the longer period by letter to the Comptroller. (By next year the Maryland instructions should catch up with the new federal 120-day rule.)
Then when you file your Maryland return, attach yet another copy of Form 4868 (or the letter of request).
If you live in Virginia, file Form 760-E not later than May 1, together with a check for any tentative tax deficiency. You will then have until August 30 (15 days after expiration of the federal extension) to file your 1982 Virginia tax return--with copies of both federal Form 4868 and Virginia Form 760-E attached.
A final word of advice: if you have lost some papers and need duplicates, or are ill or have some other legitimate reason for needing additional time, these forms provide the mechanisms for legal delay.
If you just haven't gotten around to it and are simply procrastinating, an extension is quite legal for you, too; you don't have to provide any reason for the delay.
But the job will not be any easier in August. And the awful pangs of anticipation will afflict you for another 120 days. Better to force yourself to do it now instead of putting the job off until summer.