Home owners can get bogged down with mortgage interest, property taxes, sales expenses, excessive capital gains, home office deductions and a host of other tax return entries that are related to home ownership.

Now they can stay bogged down longer and not feel guilty about it.

The do-it-tomorrow band of tax-return filers just got a reprieve from the federal tax man.

Home owners' tax returns are typically a bit more complicated than those without the taxing issues of home ownership, but any tax payer who files a tax return actually stands to benefit from a new rule that will have procrastinators dancing a jig.

Six-month automatic tax return filing extensions will be available to most taxpayers in 2006.

Believe it or not, the new U.S. Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service regulations actually make the put-it-off method of filing tax returns easier and more streamlined.

Beginning Jan. 1 2006 tax payers can request a full six-month tax-filing extension, without a reason or even a signature. The new procedure replaces a more cumbersome two-step process.

Don't dance too much. Postponing filing your tax return doesn't mean you can put off paying any taxes due. That hasn't changed. Fail to pay on time and you'll get fines and interest tacked onto your existing unpaid tax bill.

Beginning with your 2005 return, due in 2006, you can use the single IRS Form 4868 to get the automatic extension of time to file. As of this printing, the new form was not yet available on the IRS's website. The old Form 4868 (2004) should not be used to obtain the new automatic six-month filing extension.

The new Form 4868 will replace the existing two-step process under which an initial automatic extension was only allowed for four months, generally until Aug. 15.

If more time was needed, a taxpayer had to explain why, using a second extension request form (IRS Form 2688, due to be eliminated).

The Feds say about 6 percent of taxpayers request the initial four-month extension, and about a third of those go on to request a second extension, usually for two months until October 15.

Business taxpayers, who already get an automatic six month filing extension for the asking, will also enjoy new streamlined extension procedures and the elimination of three existing forms.

Beginning Jan. 1 2006 eligible business taxpayers will use IRS Form 7004 to request an automatic six-month extension.

See your tax professionals for conditions under which even longer filing extensions are available.

But why put off the inevitable?

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