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Senators urge IRS to provide late filing and payment relief amid pandemic

Senators urge IRS to provide late filing and payment relief amid pandemic
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A bipartisan group of senators is urging the IRS to provide relief for taxpayers who had difficulties filing and paying on time because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"The pandemic has created unique challenges for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), tax practitioners, and taxpayers alike," the lawmakers wrote in a letter this week to Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinOn The Money: Senate confirms Yellen as first female Treasury secretary | Biden says he's open to tighter income limits for stimulus checks | Administration will look to expedite getting Tubman on bill Senate confirms Yellen as first female Treasury secretary Biden administration will look to expedite getting Tubman on bill MORE and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig. "It is clear that Americans need a concerted effort by the IRS to work in good faith with them to address the challenges facing taxpayers during this pandemic."

Fourteen senators signed the letter, including Kevin CramerKevin John CramerGroup of GOP senators seeks to block Biden moves on Paris, Keystone McConnell faces conservative backlash over Trump criticism McConnell keeps GOP guessing on Trump impeachment MORE (R-N.D.), John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.), Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinHillicon Valley: Intelligence agency gathers US smartphone location data without warrants, memo says | Democrats seek answers on impact of Russian hack on DOJ, courts | Airbnb offers Biden administration help with vaccine distribution Democrats seek answers on impact of Russian cyberattack on Justice Department, Courts Schumer becomes new Senate majority leader MORE (D-Calif.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).

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The IRS took a number of steps earlier this year to help taxpayers during the pandemic, including extending the tax filing and payment deadlines from April 15 to July 15. As is typically the case, taxpayers were able to request filing extensions to Oct. 15. But some still had challenges filing and paying taxes on time as a result of the pandemic.

The senators said that the IRS should do more to ease burdens.

They recommended that the IRS create a special first time tax abatement program for those who had difficultly filing their returns because of the pandemic, provide written guidance that directs IRS customer service representatives to liberally grant coronavirus-related abatement requests, provide coronavirus-related examples to customer service representatives of situations that qualify for reasonable cause tax abatements, and create a dedicated telephone line for taxpayers and their representatives to use to request coronavirus-related penalty relief.

Additionally, the senators urged the IRS to consider stopping sending correspondence about tax compliance until the agency resolves its mail backlog, in an effort to "limit taxpayer confusion and reduce unnecessary correspondence with the IRS." 

"Many taxpayers are facing economic hardships, and business closures due to COVID-19," the senators wrote. "Taxpayers expect fair treatment from their government, and the current unwillingness to provide an expedited process for taxpayers and their advisors to request pandemic-specific relief places an undue burden on them."

The senators' letter is similar to requests that groups representing tax preparers have made to the IRS.