Normally I file and pay taxes at the same time.
Is it acceptable to file first, perhaps months before the payment deadline?
I ask because I have a large tax liability, and would prefer to put it off as long as possible.
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Of course you're already right up against the deadline for this year, so there is no "months before" available right now. You could file a request for extension, but you have to submit an initial estimated payment with that... and if it turns out you owe more than you sent, they'll ding you for late payment on the remainder due. So presumably you're asking about next year.
When submitting an electronic return, I know it's possible to send the forms and then mail them a check separately... so that implies that your general scenario is possible. But how early do you expect to actually have all the information available to let you file? I didn't get the last of my numbers until the start of March; I did immediately file then but that would have left me with a maximum possible delay of about six weeks. Whether that's enough to be worth the effort will depend on your own specific investments and cash flows and whatever.
Sure, you can file and pay at different times.
However, if you don't meet the safe harbor for withholding/estimated payments (100% of the previous year's tax/110% if AGI >$150k, or 90% of the current year's tax, whichever is lower), you may face penalties for under-withholding throughout the year.
Yes, filing your tax return and paying the taxes due can be done at different times. In fact, ideally all the taxes you owe for a year are paid in (either my payroll withholding or by estimated payments) by January 15th of the following year. Ideally, your tax return is basically informational only, and any payment due or refund due is very small - less than $500.
As others have mentioned, the due date for the taxes you owe is not really the tax filing date. It's earlier- during the year itself.
You don't explain why you owe a large amount, but whatever the reason, you would ideally pay in the related taxes as it happened or at the next quarterly estimated payment date.
The penalty for underpaid/late paid taxes will take that into account- it will go from when the tax liability was triggered, not from the tax filing due date. Just so you're prepared.