WASHINGTON (CN) — Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Friday that the federal deadline for Americans to file taxes has been moved from April 15 to July 15 in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
“All taxpayers and businesses will have this additional time to file and make payments without interests or penalties,” Mnuchin wrote on Twitter.
Congressman Jamie Raskin, D-Md., wrote to Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig on Thursday to suggest pushing back the deadline, citing the national emergency in response to the virus known as Covid-19. The letter mentions Mnuchin’s decision last Wednesday to extend payments on debts already owed to the IRS from last year by 90-days.
“Americans should file their tax returns by April 15 because many will receive a refund,” Mnuchin said in a statement. “Those filing will be able to take advantage of their refunds sooner. This deferment allows those who owe a payment to the IRS to defer the payment until July 15 without interest or penalties. Treasury and IRS are ensuring that hardworking Americans and businesses have additional liquidity for the next several months.”
While states will still set their own filing deadlines for state taxes, Mnuchin also said small business filings could defer payments up to $1 million without a penalty. Taxpayers are still allowed to ask for six-month extensions as well, he said.
While these exemptions are good, Raskin said, Americans who depend on outside services for help filling their taxes will suffer because many of those companies have been shuttered in response to the disease outbreak.
“Tens of millions of Americans rely on tax practitioners for help with preparing returns,” Raskin wrote. “This automatic filing extension will provide critical relief for America’s taxpayers, and would also help reduce the risk of Covid-19 exposure to IRS employees who must report to work in-person to process tax returns as they are filed.”
Democratic Senators, including Chris Murphy of Connecticut and 21 others ,also wrote to the IRS on Thursday, noting the inaccessibility to tax services amid the crisis.
“Several states are basing their individual filing deadlines on the IRS’s deadline and are therefore still requiring returns to be submitted by April 15,” Murphy wrote. “It would help many American taxpayers if they knew they could file on July 15 without needing to ask for extensions or worry about late payments.”
The ability to efficiently send taxpayers refund checks and staff the agency amid the national emergency is a big concern for the IRS. It closed its taxpayer assistance centers Friday in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, recommending those who need help call the agency instead.
Steven Willis, a professor of law at the University of Florida, told Courthouse News in an interview Friday that a delay for taxpayers that owed small amounts wouldn’t considerably help people struggling financially.
For nearly a decade, Willis was an adviser at the university’s volunteer income tax assistance center, which helps hundreds file their tax returns annually. He said it is a real problem that those types of programs are shutting down because they are essential for people who generally do not know how to use online services.
“If people can’t file, they can’t get their refunds, so, that concerns me and I don’t see how the government can help with that,” Willis said. “None of that is going on at the University of Florida.”
Congresswoman Val Demings, D-Fla., wrote a separate letter to Mnuchin this week noting that her office had received numerous requests for assistance from constituents who are awaiting to receive refunds from the tax filling they submitted weeks ago.
“They rely on this money to help make ends meet and are in especially dire circumstances in our current environment,” Demings wrote. “It is important that the IRS review these tax fillings expeditiously and issue the necessary refunds as possible to help alleviate the financial hardship experienced by our constituents.”
Mnuchin tweeted Friday that Americans who will receive tax returns are encouraged to file before the extended deadline.
“I encourage all taxpayers who may have tax refunds to file now to get your money,” he wrote.