Despite tax day extension, coronavirus restrictions still hobble tax payers and preparers

Tax payers and tax preparers now have an extra 90 days to finish up their tax filing, after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced via tweet that tax day would be moved from April 15 to July 15.

“It is such a big relief and I know that taxpayers and preparers will benefit,” Brian Streig, a CPA in Austin, Texas, told NBC News.

Preparers and accountants were scrambling to file all their clients’ tax returns ahead of the April 15 deadline while also trying to practice “social distancing” and follow President Donald Trump’s recommendation to work from home, amid the coronavirus outbreak.

One tax preparer in Massachusetts, who wished to remain anonymous, told NBC News, her work required her to come into contact with “dozens, if not close to 100 people daily.”

“Most clients are still coming in for their appointment because the majority still believe this is being blown out of proportion,” she added.

The National Society of Accountants sent a letter to the president of the Internal Revenue Service explaining that many firms were worried they would not be able to file everything before April 15.

“These clients are reporting day-to-day business disruptions including travel restrictions, supply chain interruptions, and diminished customer traffic resulting in reduced revenue and limited access to tax documentation. Our members are indicating that these developments present significant challenges for clients in organizing tax records and making final and/or estimated tax payments,” the letter said.

On Wednesday, the IRS announced it would extend the payment deadline to July 15, giving individuals 90 extra days to pay what they owe the government.

However, this extension did not apply to the actual filing date of April 15 — less than one month away.

Streig said extending the filing date gives his clients more clarity.

“Trying to explain the difference in the filing deadline versus the payment deadline was a distinction most didn’t understand right away,” he said.

With many CPAs and tax preparers being urged, or in some states, required, to work from home, they were unable to complete the necessary paperwork in order to file all the returns on time.

Streig said his firm sent everyone home, and with kids home from school and the current situation it’s impossible to “expect the same productivity going on right now, it’s just not going to happen.”

In order for tax preparers to be able to file their clients’ returns, they need specific documents that are typically dropped off at the office. The coronavirus pandemic has made it more difficult for preparers to obtain these documents, since people must stay at home.

Some firms have systems in place that allow their clients to submit the documents electronically, but for some older individuals this isn’t always an option.

“Many of these people don’t have access to scanners. Under better circumstances they could see their kids and they could help them but they’re not supposed to do that right now,” Streig told NBC News.

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