Taxpayers will be able to request an automatic, six-month filing extension for most common individual and business returns, according to new regulations released by the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service.

The new regulations provide streamlined and simplified procedures that are expected to annually save taxpayers between $73 million and $94 million by eliminating or consolidating several existing IRS forms. As a result, starting Jan. 1, 2006, most individuals and businesses will be able to request a full six-month filing extension, without a reason or even a signature.

The new procedures will replace the existing two-step process under which non-corporate taxpayers could only get a six-month extension by first obtaining an extension, usually automatic, for part of that period and then requesting a discretionary extension for the remainder. A filing extension does not extend the payment deadline.

"Some taxpayers need a full six months for extensions as the law provides," said IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson, in a statement. "This change simplifies the process so they can make the request just once, not twice."

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