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Publication 17

When Do I
Have To File?(p9)

April 17, 2012, is the due date for filing your 2011 income tax return if you use the calendar year. For a quick view of due dates for filing a return with or without an extension of time to file (discussed later), see Table 1-5.

Table 1-5.  When To File Your 2011 Return

For U.S. citizens and residents who file returns on a calendar year.

 For Most TaxpayersFor Certain Taxpayers
  Outside the U.S.  
No extension requestedApril 17, 2012June 15, 2012
Automatic extensionOctober 15, 2012October 15, 2012
If you use a fiscal year (a year ending on the last day of any month except December, or a 52-53-week year), your income tax return is due by the 15th day of the 4th month after the close of your fiscal year.
When the due date for doing any act for tax purposes—filing a return, paying taxes, etc.—falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the due date is delayed until the next business day.

Filing paper returns on time.(p9)

Your paper return is filed on time if it is mailed in an envelope that is properly addressed, has enough postage, and is postmarked by the due date. If you send your return by registered mail, the date of the registration is the postmark date. The registration is evidence that the return was delivered. If you send a return by certified mail and have your receipt postmarked by a postal employee, the date on the receipt is the postmark date. The postmarked certified mail receipt is evidence that the return was delivered.
Private delivery services.(p9)
If you use a private delivery service designated by the IRS to send your return, the postmark date generally is the date the private delivery service records in its database or marks on the mailing label. The private delivery service can tell you how to get written proof of this date.
The following are designated private delivery services.

Filing electronic returns on time.(p10)

If you use IRS e-file, your return is considered filed on time if the authorized electronic return transmitter postmarks the transmission by the due date. An authorized electronic return transmitter is a participant in the IRS e-file program that transmits electronic tax return information directly to the IRS.
The electronic postmark is a record of when the authorized electronic return transmitter received the transmission of your electronically filed return on its host system. The date and time in your time zone controls whether your electronically filed return is timely.

Filing late.(p10)

If you do not file your return by the due date, you may have to pay a failure-to-file penalty and interest. For more information, see Penalties, later. Also see Interest under Amount You Owe.
If you were due a refund but you did not file a return, you generally must file within 3 years from the date the return was due (including extensions) to get that refund.

Nonresident alien.(p10)

If you are a nonresident alien and earn wages subject to U.S. income tax withholding, your 2011 U.S. income tax return (Form 1040NR or Form 1040NR-EZ) is due by:
If you do not earn wages subject to U.S. income tax withholding, your return is due by: See Publication 519 for more filing information.

Filing for a decedent.(p10)

If you must file a final income tax return for a taxpayer who died during the year (a decedent), the return is due by the 15th day of the 4th month after the end of the decedent's normal tax year. See Publication 559.

Extensions of Time To File(p10)

You may be able to get an extension of time to file your return. Special rules apply for those who were:

Automatic Extension(p10)

If you cannot file your 2011 return by the due date, you may be able to get an automatic 6-month extension of time to file.


If your return is due on April 17, 2012, you will have until October 15, 2012, to file.
If you do not pay the tax due by the regular due date (generally, April 15), you will owe interest. You may also be charged penalties, discussed later.

How to get the automatic extension.(p10)

You can get the automatic extension by:
  1. Using IRS e-file (electronic filing), or
  2. Filing a paper form.
E-file options.(p10)
There are two ways you can use e-file to get an extension of time to file. Complete Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, to use as a worksheet. If you think you may owe tax when you file your return, use Part II of the form to estimate your balance due. If you e-file Form 4868 to the IRS, do not also send a paper Form 4868.
E-file using your personal computer or a tax professional.(p10)
You can use a tax software package with your personal computer or a tax professional to file Form 4868 electronically. You will need to provide certain information from your tax return for 2010. If you wish to make a payment by electronic funds withdrawal, see Electronic payment options, under How To Pay, later in this chapter.
E-file and pay by credit or debit card or by using the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS).(p10)
You can get an extension by paying part or all of your estimate of tax due by using a credit or debit card or by using EFTPS. You can do this by phone or over the Internet. You do not file Form 4868. See Electronic payment options, under How To Pay, later in this chapter.

Filing a paper Form 4868.(p10)

You can get an extension of time to file by filing a paper Form 4868. Mail it to the address shown in the form instructions.
If you want to make a payment with the form, make your check or money order payable to the "United States Treasury." Write your SSN, daytime phone number, and "2011 Form 4868" on your check or money order.

When to file.(p10)

You must request the automatic extension by the due date for your return. You can file your return any time before the 6-month extension period ends.

When you file your return.(p10)

Enter any payment you made related to the extension of time to file on Form 1040, line 68. If you file Form 1040EZ or Form 1040A, include that payment in your total payments on Form 1040EZ, line 9, or Form 1040A, line 41. Also enter "Form 4868" and the amount paid in the space to the left of line 9 or line 41.

Individuals Outside the
United States(p10)

You are allowed an automatic 2-month extension (until June 15, 2012, if you use the calendar year) to file your 2011 return and pay any federal income tax due if:
  1. You are a U.S. citizen or resident, and
  2. On the due date of your return:
    1. You are living outside the United States and Puerto Rico, and your main place of business or post of duty is outside the United States and Puerto Rico, or
    2. You are in military or naval service on duty outside the United States and
      Puerto Rico.
However, if you pay the tax due after the regular due date (generally, April 15), interest will be charged from that date until the date the tax is paid.
If you served in a combat zone or qualified hazardous duty area, you may be eligible for a longer extension of time to file. See Individuals Serving in Combat Zone, later, for special rules that apply to you.

Married taxpayers.(p10)

If you file a joint return, only one spouse has to qualify for this automatic extension. If you and your spouse file separate returns, this automatic extension applies only to the spouse who qualifies.

How to get the extension.(p10)

To use this automatic extension, you must attach a statement to your return explaining what situation qualified you for the extension. (See the situations listed under (2), earlier.)

Extensions beyond 2 months.(p10)

If you cannot file your return within the automatic 2-month extension period, you may be able to get an additional 4-month extension, for a total of 6 months. File Form 4868 and check the box on line 8.

No further extension.(p10)

An extension of more than 6 months will generally not be granted. However, if you are outside the United States and meet certain tests, you may be granted a longer extension. For more information, see When To File and Pay in Publication 54.

Individuals Serving in
Combat Zone(p10)

The deadline for filing your tax return, paying any tax you may owe, and filing a claim for refund is automatically extended if you serve in a combat zone. This applies to members of the Armed Forces, as well as merchant marines serving aboard vessels under the operational control of the Department of Defense, Red Cross personnel, accredited correspondents, and civilians under the direction of the Armed Forces in support of the Armed Forces.

Combat zone.(p10)

For purposes of the automatic extension, the term "combat zone" includes the following areas.
  1. The Persian Gulf area, effective January 17, 1991.
  2. The qualified hazardous duty area of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia/Montenegro), Albania, the Adriatic Sea, and the Ionian Sea north of the 39th parallel, effective March 24, 1999.
  3. Afghanistan, effective September 19, 2001.
See Publication 3, Armed Forces' Tax Guide, for information about other tax benefits available to military personnel serving in a combat zone.

Extension period.(p11)

The deadline for filing your return, paying any tax due, and filing a claim for refund is extended for at least 180 days after the later of:
  1. The last day you are in a combat zone or the last day the area qualifies as a combat zone, or
  2. The last day of any continuous qualified hospitalization for injury from service in the combat zone.
In addition to the 180 days, your deadline is also extended by the number of days you had left to take action with the IRS when you entered the combat zone. For example, you have 31/2 months (January 1 – April 15) to file your tax return. Any days left in this period when you entered the combat zone (or the entire 31/2 months if you entered it before the beginning of the year) are added to the 180 days. See Extension of Deadlines in Publication 3 for more information.
The above rules on the extension for filing your return also apply when you are deployed outside the United States (away from your permanent duty station) while participating in a designated contingency operation.