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Filing an Extension for Your Federal Income Taxes


Every year, millions of Americans are unable to file their federal income tax returns by the due date. You may not have received the forms you needed, you may need extra time or you may have been out of the country on a deployment. Regardless of the reason, you may be able to request an extension to allow you more time to complete your paperwork.

Types of extensions

There are three situations that may allow you to receive an extension for filing your federal income taxes.

  • Automatic extension. If you cannot file your return by the due date, you may be able to get an automatic six-month extension to file. Most Americans can qualify for an automatic extension if they request it before the filing due date. Information on how to request an extension is available on the Internal Revenue Service website.
  • Extension for individuals living outside the United States. U.S. citizens or residents living outside the United States and Puerto Rico whose main place of business or post of duty is outside the United States and Puerto Rico (including service members stationed outside the United States and Puerto Rico) automatically qualify for a two-month extension. To receive this extension, you must attach a statement to your return explaining your situation and how it qualifies you for an extension. If you are unable to file your return within the two-month extension, you can request an additional four-months. Extensions of more than six months are generally not granted.
  • Extension for individuals serving in a combat zone. 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 service members, as well as Merchant Marines serving aboard vessels under the operational control of the DoD, Red Cross personnel, accredited correspondents and civilians under the direction of the military and in support of the military.

Eligibility for tax extensions related to serving in a combat zone

Service members and their families qualify for an automatic extension for filing tax returns, paying taxes, filing claims for refund and taking other actions with the Internal Revenue Service if they meet any of the following circumstances:

  • Served in a combat zone. A combat zone is any area the president of the United States designates by executive order as an area in which the military is engaging or has engaged in combat. An area usually becomes a combat zone and ceases to be a combat zone on the dates the president designates by executive order.
  • Served in a location outside a combat zone that was considered to be performed in a combat zone. Military service outside a combat zone is considered to be performed in a combat zone if the DoD designates that the service is in direct support of military operations in the combat zone, and the service qualifies you for special military pay for duty subject to hostile fire or imminent danger.
  • Deployed in support of a contingency operation. Deployments outside the United States away from your permanent duty station while participating in a contingency operation also qualify you for a federal income tax extension. A contingency operation is any military operation that is designated by the secretary of defense or that results in calling members of the uniformed services to active duty (or retains them on active duty) during a war or a national emergency declared by the president or Congress.
  • Were designated in a missing status. If you were designated in a missing status, such as missing in action or prisoner of war, your time in that status counts as time in a combat zone or a contingency operation.
  • Supported the military in a combat zone/contingency operation. Non-military support personnel serving in a combat zone or a contingency operation in support of the military are also eligible to receive a federal income tax extension. This applies to Red Cross personnel, accredited correspondents and civilian personnel acting under the direction of the military in support of those forces.

Spouses of individuals who served in a combat zone or contingency operation are entitled to the same deadline extensions with two exceptions. The extension does not apply to a spouse for any tax year beginning more than two years after the date that the area ceased to be a combat zone or the operation ceased to be a contingency operation. The extension also does not apply to a spouse for any period the qualifying individual is hospitalized in the United States for injuries incurred in a combat zone or contingency operation.

In addition to federal income taxes, qualifying for the combat zone tax extension also extends the deadline for paying your taxes, as well as any penalties or interest that the Internal Revenue Service would have normally charged you. If the Internal Revenue Service sends you a notice of examination before learning that you are entitled to an extension of the deadline, contact your legal assistance office.

Length of extension related to serving in a combat zone

If you meet any of the above circumstances, the deadline for filing your federal income tax return is extended for 180 days after the last day you qualified for the extension. This day would be the last day in which you were in a combat zone, had qualifying service outside of the combat zone, served in a contingency operation, were designated in a missing status or supported the military in a combat zone/contingency operation.

In addition to the 180 days, your deadline is extended by the number of days that remained for you to file your federal income tax return when you qualified for the extension. For example, you generally have three and a half months (Jan. 1 to April 15) each year to file your federal income tax return. Any days of this period that were left when you entered the combat zone or the entire period if your qualifying service began before Jan. 1 are added to the 180 days when determining the last day allowed for filing your tax return. When the due date for doing any act for filing a return falls on a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday, the due date is delayed until the next business day.

Military OneSource tax services

Military OneSource provides year-round access to tax consultants who can help you and your family find answers to your tax questions and maximize your refund. Military OneSource tax consultants can help you request an extension for filing your federal income taxes and can provide assistance through the following methods:

  • Share information about the unique tax requirements and issues related to military personnel and their families
  • Identify applicable Internal Revenue Service and state tax regulations, definitions and forms
  • Provide electronic copies of tax forms and help you understand how to complete them
  • Review options for using a refund including options for paying down debt
  • Explain additional tax services available to the military community such as Volunteer Income Tax Assistance clinics

In addition to tax consultants, Military OneSource provides free access an online tax filing service. The service allows you to complete and electronically file your federal and up to three state tax returns or filings. Your calculations are guaranteed to be 100 percent accurate or the service pays the penalties and interest. The tax filing service protects the security and confidentiality of your personal information by using industry-recognized security safeguards. You do not have to complete the return all at one time. When you begin, you create a secure user ID and password, which enable you to log on, save, close and return to the program as needed.

To learn more about Military OneSource tax services, call 800-342-9647 or go online.


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