WASHINGTON -- For the first time, people will be able to get automatic four-month tax filing extensions from the Internal Revenue Service with a few clicks of a computer mouse or a simple telephone call.
The IRS announced Thursday that these services are being added this year to the traditional extension request, which can still be made in writing by mailing in Form 4868. About 8 million taxpayers are expected to request extensions this year.
The telephone service begins April 1 by calling 1-888-796-1074. The IRS says taxpayers should use Form 4868 as a guide and have with them a copy of their 1999 tax return, because they will need to enter their adjusted gross income and total tax amounts to verify their identities.
Once that is finished, callers will get IRS confirmation numbers to be saved for their records.
Computer tax filers also can easily ask for an extension by using their own tax software or going to a paid preparer. Again, the IRS wants taxpayers to have their 1999 forms handy so numbers can be entered to confirm the person's identity.
This year's tax-filing deadline for most of America is April 16, because the traditional April 15 deadline is a Sunday. In Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut and Rhode Island, and in New York state north of Westchester and Rockland counties, the deadline is April 17.
That's because the IRS service center for that area is in Massachusetts, where April 16 is a legal holiday, Patriot's Day.
Filing for an extension doesn't mean a taxpayer should delay paying taxes due. The IRS says a person should estimate any tax liability based on the best information available -- and they can choose to pay through automatic withdrawal from a bank account, by a traditional mailed-in check or by charging through one of the two credit-card services linked with the IRS.
People who wish to pay taxes with an American Express, Discover Card or MasterCard can call either 1-800-2PAY-TAX or 1-888-ALLTAXX to do so. Visa doesn't participate.
A taxpayer can get an extension without any payments, but interest of 8 percent a year and a late-payment penalty could apply for any balance due.