This year, the Internal Revenue Service is offering a new way to file an extension request for free.

This year, anyone, regardless of income, can e-file their extensions at no cost from a home computer using IRS’s traditional FreeFile or the new FreeFile Fillable Forms introduced this season. E-filing a request for an extension using either form of FreeFile is safe and secure, the IRS said, and taxpayers will receive a confirmation to keep with their records. However, as always, the extension requests need to be filed by April 15.

The IRS expects to receive 1.9 million extension requests electronically this year. A total of almost 10 million extension requests are expected during 2009 compared with 9.5 million extensions received during 2008.

The extension gives taxpayers until Oct. 15 to file their tax returns. An extension does not give the taxpayer an extension of time to pay. Those who owe taxes can make a payment when they file the extension either by mailing a check or by several electronic payment methods, such as electronic funds withdrawals from bank accounts and credit card payments. Taxpayers can get an automatic six-month extension of time to file their tax returns by filing Form 4868, "Automatic Extension of Time to File."

Taxpayers can e-file the extension from a home computer or through a tax professional who uses e-file.

Some taxpayers can wait until after April 15 to file a return, pay any taxes due and make IRA contributions for 2008. As a general rule, those eligible get the extra time without having to ask for it. Eligible taxpayers include members of the military serving in Iraq, Afghanistan or other combat zone localities. Normally, the postponement is until at least 180 days after the service member leaves the combat zone.

Victims of severe flooding in Minnesota and North Dakota have an extra 30 days, until May 15, to file their 2008 individual tax returns and pay any taxes due (see IRS Grants Relief to Flood Victims). Similarly, victims of severe storms and tornadoes in three Oklahoma counties have until May 11 to file and pay.

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