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Lawmakers Pressure IRS To Extend Tax Return Filing Deadline

By Joshua Rosenberg · March 19, 2020, 4:31 PM EDT

Lawmakers pushed the IRS on Thursday to delay the April 15 tax return filing deadline to help taxpayers cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, saying the agency's recent decision to defer tax payments for three months didn't go far enough.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and other senators introduced a bill to extend the filing deadline for 2019 taxes to July 15, the date Treasury Secretary Steven Munchin has announced as the deadline for tax payment. (AP)

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and others introduced S. 3535, the Tax Filing Relief for America Act, which would extend the Internal Revenue Service filing deadline until July 15.  Meanwhile, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., sent a letter asking Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to effect the change himself. 

The lawmakers made their case two days after Mnuchin announced that the Internal Revenue Service would extend its payment deadline to July 15 in order to ease the burden on filers and stimulate the economy, but that it would maintain April 15 as the filing deadline.

"Treasury's decision to extend the tax payment deadline from April 15 to July 15 was an important first step, but it only makes sense to also extend the tax filing deadline itself," Thune said. "There's enough confusion amid this outbreak as it is, so I believe it's incumbent upon Congress to provide as much clarity and relief as possible to American families."

Neal's letter asked Mnuchin not only to extend the filing deadline until July 15 but also to delay the deadline for payments on estimated taxes for the first quarter, which is set for June 15.  

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, which represents more than 431,000 members, supported the legislation introduced by Thune. 

"The AICPA is grateful to Sen. Thune for his leadership on this critical issue, and we support his efforts to provide Americans with much-needed tax filing relief in the midst of this national emergency," Edward Karl, AICPA vice president of taxation, said in a statement. "Now is the time to support individuals and businesses."

In light of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, CPAs are ill prepared to fulfill their responsibilities in a timely manner unless the IRS delays the filing deadline, Chris Hesse, chair of the AICPA's Tax Executive Committee, told Law360. 

Working from home with families present, as many tax preparers are currently forced to do, "is not the best working environment for focusing on preparing tax returns," he said. 

The IRS said in a Wednesday notice that individuals and pass-through businesses owing up to $1 million in federal income taxes and corporations owing up to $10 million in taxes could defer payments for 90 days without interest and penalties.

Mnuchin said in a statement Wednesday that the deferral would ensure "that hardworking Americans and businesses have additional liquidity for the next several months" and that the delay would free up some $300 billion.     

But that measure doesn't go far enough to support tax preparers, Karl said. 

"Offering taxpayers only relief for federal income tax payments but not for the filing of any tax or information returns is not sufficient, nor does it recognize the burdens our citizens are facing across the country," he said. "More must be done immediately."

The IRS does not comment on pending legislation, a spokesperson for the agency, Dean Patterson, told Law360. 

Treasury could not immediately be reached for comment. 

--Editing by Vincent Sherry. 

Update: This article has been updated with a response from the IRS. 

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