Democrats urge IRS to extend tax-filing season

Democrats urge IRS to extend tax-filing season
© Aaron Schwartz

A group of Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday urged the IRS to extend the tax-filing season beyond the current April 15 deadline in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

"It has come to our attention that, due to the ongoing pandemic, many Americans continue to face the same challenges that necessitated extending the filing season last year," the lawmakers wrote in a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig.

Rep. Bill PascrellWilliam (Bill) James PascrellProgressive poll finds support for solar energy tax credit legislation Democrats brace for toughest stretch yet with Biden agenda LIVE COVERAGE: Tax hikes take center stage in Ways and Means markup MORE (D-N.J.), chairman of the Ways and Means Committee's oversight subcommittee, took the lead on the letter, and seven other Democrats on the committee also signed it. The letter comes after the oversight subcommittee held a hearing earlier Thursday about free tax-preparation services during the pandemic, during which some of the witnesses said an extension of the filing season could be warranted.

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The IRS extended the deadline for filing and paying taxes last year from April 15 to July 15 because of the pandemic. An agency official told reporters last week that the IRS does not currently have plans to take similar action this year. As is typical, people can request six-month extensions to file their returns.

The Democratic lawmakers said last year's extended due date provided valuable relief, and that an extension would again be helpful again this year.

"Health and safety concerns continue to keep taxpayer assistance sites closed and taxpayers homebound," the lawmakers wrote. "As a result, taxpayers are having a much harder time receiving the crucial assistance they are accustomed to and require. These challenges are especially acute for low-income taxpayers with limited digital or English proficiency."

The lawmakers also noted that the filing season is condensed this year because it started later than usual, and that the IRS is still processing millions of tax returns that were filed last year.

The Ways and Means Committee Democrats urged the IRS to consider announcing an extension of the filing deadline "as soon as possible to eliminate unnecessary taxpayer and practitioner anxiety."

"We sincerely believe that an early extension of the filing and payment deadlines will benefit and be a
comfort to taxpayers, practitioners, and the IRS alike," the lawmakers wrote.

The Democratic lawmakers also sent Rettig a separate letter Thursday asking the agency for information about how free tax-preparation services, such as the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs, will be delivered and publicized this year. 

Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee's oversight subcommittee sent a letter to Rettig this week seeking information about how the IRS plans to address its backlog of 2019 tax returns that have yet to be processed. Their letter states that about 11 million individual and business returns are still unprocessed.