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IRS To Suspend Some Tax Enforcement In Light Of COVID-19

By Dylan Moroses · March 25, 2020, 5:00 PM EDT

The Internal Revenue Service announced Wednesday that it will immediately suspend certain tax payments and compliance programs and pledged to not generally begin new audits or private debt collections until at least July 15 in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The agencywide suspensions of some enforcement activities and easing of payment schedules for those who may have entered offers in compromise or installment agreements reflect some of the "extraordinary steps" the IRS is taking to assist taxpayers, Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a statement.

"In addition to extending tax deadlines and working on new legislation, the IRS is pursuing unprecedented actions to ease the burden on people facing tax issues," Rettig said. "During this difficult time, we want people working together, focused on their well-being, helping each other and others less fortunate."

IRS agents will avoid in-person contact with taxpayers as much as possible until July 15. Payments due between April 1 and July 15 are postponed for those who entered payment plans with the agency, according to the announcement. Taxpayers under review for claiming the earned income tax credit have until July 15 to verify their income and qualifications.

The IRS said it will also suspend automatic liens and levies during the time period and stop referrals of delinquent taxpayers to private debt collection companies until at least July 15.

The agency will lighten enforcement efforts from April 1 to July 15, according to the announcement. For example, IRS field officers will typically not initiate any seizures of property, liens or levies during the time period. They are generally not planning to begin new audits, but they will continue to pursue high-income individuals who have not filed, the IRS said.

The IRS also may continue processing refund claims without in-person contact and could start examinations where the statute of limitations on a tax deficiency or compliance issue might be expiring.

The IRS Independent Office of Appeals will continue to process cases without in-person meetings and hold telephone or videoconferences instead, the agency said.

Rettig said that the agency will continue to review its initiative to respond to the coronavirus and that the IRS may change or expand the plan, if necessary.

On Friday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that the IRS will push back both the payment and filing deadline for people and businesses until July 15. The announcement came after the administration received criticism from congressional lawmakers for extending the deadline only for payments for people and pass-through businesses with liabilities of less than $1 million and for corporations with tax bills up to $10 million.

The IRS could not be immediately reached for further comment.

--Additional reporting by Joshua Rosenberg. Editing by Joyce Laskowski.

Clarification: This article has been updated to clarify the actions that IRS field officers will continue to take during the suspension.

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