Tax Extensions: 12 Tips To Save You Money

Individual tax returns for 2022 are due April 18, 2023. However, most active traders aren’t ready to file on time. Some brokers issue corrected 1099Bs right up to the deadline. Many partnerships and S-Corps file extensions by March 15, 2023, and don’t issue Schedule K-1s to partners until after April 18. Many securities traders struggle with accounting for wash sale loss adjustments.

The good news is that traders don’t have to rush the completion of their tax returns by April 18. They should take advantage of a simple one-page automatic extension with payment of taxes owed to the IRS and state. Most active traders file extensions, and it’s helpful to them on many fronts.

You might not have to file an extension if you are eligible for disaster tax relief. However, if you want to elect Section 475 MTM accounting for 2023, then consider filing an extension and attaching the election to that extension. (See Tax Relief In Disaster Situations.)

Tip 1: Get a six-month extension of time

By April 18, 2023, request an automatic six-month extension to file individual federal and state income tax returns due October 16, 2023. Form 4868 instructions indicate how easy it is to get this automatic extension, and the IRS doesn’t require a reason. It’s an extension to file a complete tax return, not an extension to pay taxes owed. Estimate and report what you think you owe for 2022 based on your tax information received.

Tip 2: Avoid penalties from the IRS and state for being late

Learn how IRS late-filing and late-payment penalties apply so you can avoid or reduce them to your satisfaction. 2022 Form 4868 (Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return) page two states:

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The late payment penalty is usually 1⁄2 of 1% of any tax (other than estimated tax) not paid by the regular due date of your return, which is April 18, 2023. It’s charged for each month or part of a month the tax is unpaid. The maximum penalty is 25%.

The late payment penalty won’t be charged if you can show reasonable cause for not paying on time. Attach a statement to your return fully explaining the reason. Don’t attach the statement to Form 4868. You’re considered to have reasonable cause for the period covered by this automatic extension if both of the following requirements have been met. At least 90% of the total tax on your 2022 return is paid on or before the regular due date of your return through withholding, estimated tax payments, or payments made with Form 4868. The remaining balance is paid with your return.

A late filing penalty is usually charged if your return is filed after the due date (including extensions). The penalty is usually 5% of the amount due for each month or part of a month your return is late. The maximum penalty is 25%. If your return is more than 60 days late, the minimum penalty is $450 (adjusted for inflation) or the balance of the tax due on your return, whichever is smaller. You might not owe the penalty if you have a reasonable explanation for filing late. Attach a statement to your return fully explaining your reason for filing late. Don’t attach the statement to Form 4868.”

Check these types of penalties with your state, too.

Tip 3: File an automatic extension even if you cannot pay

Even if you can’t pay what you estimate you owe, file the automatic extension form on time by April 18, 2023. It should help avoid the late-filing penalty, which is ten times more than the late-payment penalty. If you can’t pay in full, you should file your tax return or extension and pay as much as possible.

An example of late payment and late-filing penalties: Assume your 2022 tax liability estimate is $50,000. Suppose you file an extension by April 18, 2023, but cannot pay any of your tax balance due. You file your 2022 tax return on the extended due date of October 16, 2023, with full payment. A late-payment penalty applies because you did not pay 90% of your tax liability on April 18, 2023. The late-payment penalty is $1,500 (six months late x 0.5% per month x $50,000). Some traders view a late-payment penalty as a 6% margin loan, but it’s not tax-deductible.

By simply filing the extension on time in the above example, you avoided a late-filing penalty of $11,250 (six months late x 5% per month [25% maximum], less late-payment penalty factor of 2.5% = 22.5%; 22.5% x $50,000 = $11,250). The IRS also charges Interest on taxes paid after April 18, 2023.

If you don’t expect to owe 2022 taxes by April 18, 2023, it’s easy to prepare an extension with no balance due. Make sure to file it on time to avoid a minimum penalty if you were wrong and owe taxes for 2022.

Tip 4: Add a payment cushion for the first quarter (Q1) 2023 estimated taxes due

Traders with 2023 year-to-date trading gains and significant tax liability in the past year should consider making quarterly estimated tax payments in 2023 to avoid underestimated tax penalties. The IRS increased interest rates in 2022 and 2023, and current rates are 7% for underpayments. (See Interest rates increase for the first quarter of 2023.)

I recommend the following strategy for traders and business owners: Overpay your 2022 tax extension on April 18, 2023, and plan to apply an overpayment credit toward Q1 2023 estimated taxes. Most traders don’t make estimated tax payments until Q3 or Q4, when they have more precise trading results. Why pay estimated taxes for Q1 and Q2 if you incur substantial trading losses later in the year?

It’s better to pay an extra amount for the extension to set yourself up for three good choices: A cushion on 2022 if you underestimated your taxes, an overpayment credit toward 2023 taxes, or a tax refund for 2022 if no 2023 estimated taxes are due.

Tip 5: Consider a 2023 Section 475 MTM election

Traders eligible for trader tax status should consider attaching a 2023 Section 475 election statement to their 2022 federal tax return or extension due by April 18, 2023, for individuals and corporations and March 15, 2023, for partnerships and S-Corps.

Section 475 turns capital gains and losses into ordinary gains and losses, thereby avoiding the capital-loss limitation and wash-sale loss adjustments on securities (i.e., tax-loss insurance). Section 475 gains are eligible for the 20% qualified business income (QBI) deduction. (See How Traders Elect 475 To Maximize Their Tax Savings.)

Tip 6: File tax returns when it’s more convenient for you

Sophisticated and wealthy taxpayers know the “real” tax deadline is October 16, 2023, for individuals and September 15, 2023, for pass-through entities, including partnership and S-Corp tax returns. Pass-through entities file tax extensions by March 15, 2023.

Like most wealthy taxpayers, you don’t have to wait until the last few days of the extension period. Try to file your tax return in the summer months.

Tip 7: Be conservative with tax payments

I’ve always advised clients to be aggressive but legal with tax-return filings and look conservative with cash (tax money). Impress the IRS with your patience on overpayment credits and demonstrate you’re not hungry and perhaps overly aggressive to generate tax refunds. It’s wise for traders to apply overpayment credits toward estimated taxes owed on current-year trading income. You want to look like you will be successful in the current tax year.

The additional time helps build tax positions like qualification for trader tax status in 2022 and 2023. It may open opportunities for new ideas on tax savings. A rushed return does not.

Tip 8: Get more time to fund qualified retirement plans

The extension also pushes back the deadline for paying money into qualified retirement plans, including a Solo 401(k), SEP IRA, and defined benefit plan. The deadline for 2023 IRA contributions is April 18, 2023.

Tip 9: Respect the policies of your accountants

Your accountant can prepare extension forms quickly for a nominal additional cost related to that job. There are no fees from the IRS or state for filing extensions. Be sure to give your accountant the tax information received and estimates for missing data.

Your accountant begins your tax compliance (preparation) engagement, and they cut it off when seeing a solid draft to use for extension filing purposes. Your accountant will wait for the final tax information to arrive after April 18, 2023. Think of the extension as a half-time break. It’s not procrastination; accountants want tax returns finished.

Please don’t overwhelm your tax preparer the last few weeks and days before April 18 with minor details in a rush to file a complete tax return. Accounting firms with high-quality standards have internal deadlines for receiving tax information for completing tax returns. It’s unwise to pressure your accountant, which could lead to mistakes or oversights in a rush to file a complete return at the last minute. That doesn’t serve anyone well.

Tip 10: Securities traders should focus on trade accounting

It doesn’t matter if your capital loss is $50,000 or $75,000 at extension time: Either way, you’ll be reporting a capital loss limitation of $3,000 against other income. In this case, don’t get bogged down with trade accounting and reconciliation with Form 1099Bs until after April 18. The capital loss carryover impacts your decision to elect Section 475 MTM for 2023 by April 18, 2023, but an estimate is sufficient.

Consider wash-sale loss rules on securities: If these adjustments don’t change your $3,000 capital loss limitation, you can proceed with your extension filing. But if you suspect wash-sale loss adjustments could lead to reporting capital gains rather than losses, or if you aren’t sure of your capital gains amount, focus your efforts on trade accounting before April 18. (Consider TradeLog or GNM’s trade accounting service.) Try to do accounting work for year-to-date 2023; it also affects your decision-making on the 475 election.

Section 1256 contract traders can rely on the one-page 1099B showing aggregate profit or loss. Forex traders can depend on the broker’s online tax reports. Wash sales don’t apply to Section 1256 contracts and forex. Cryptocurrency traders should use crypto trade accounting programs to generate Form 8949.

Tip 11: Don’t overlook state extensions and PTE payments

Some states don’t require an automatic extension for overpaid personal tax returns; they accept the federal extension. You must file a state extension with payment if you owe state taxes. States tend to be less accommodating than the IRS in abating penalties, so covering your state taxes first is usually wise if you’re short on cash. Check the extension rules in your state.

For partnerships and S-Corps, don’t overlook pass-through entity (PTE) payments with the Form 7004 extension filing to benefit from the state’s SALT cap workaround solution enacted in about 29 states. (See Tax Tips For Traders Preparing 2022 Tax Returns.)

Tip 12: U.S. residents abroad should learn the particular rules

U.S. citizens or aliens residing overseas are allowed an automatic two-month extension until June 15, 2023, to file their tax return and pay any amount due without requesting an extension. (See Form 4868, page 2, “Taxpayers who are out of the country” and the IRS website.)

Darren Neuschwander, CPA, contributed to this blog post.

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