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April 15 is still a few weeks away, but even that is too soon for some taxpayers. If you're one of them, there is a way to get more time. By filling out Form 4868, you can get a four-month extension and file as late as Aug. 15. When you do file 4868, you still have to estimate and pay any tax owed before April 15. Otherwise, you might have to pay penalties and interest for late tax payments. A copy of 4868 must accompany your return when you finally do file.

It is also possible to get an extension beyond the four-month period, but for that, you need a good reason. You can tell your tale of woe either in a letter to the IRS or on Form 2688. But this letter or the form must reach the IRS long enough before Aug. 15 so you can still file in case you get turned down.

While you can move your taxpaying into the future, it is also possible to go backward, that is, to make up for tax breaks that may have been missed in previous years. With an amended return (Form 1040X), you can claim deductions or credits which were not claimed before that could have eased your tax bill. In most cases, an amended return must be filed within three years of the year in question.

If you would like a question considered for publication in this column, please send it to Moneywise, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, Mass. 02115. No personal replies can be given by mail or phone. References to investments are not an endorsement or recommendation by this newspaper.

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