Remember that earlier chatter suggesting that Congress should extend the tax filing season? There’s now a serious proposal to do just that.
Representatives Sean Casten (D-IL) and Lauren Underwood (D-IL) have introduced the Taxpayer Extension Act, which would give American taxpayers an additional five weeks to file their individual tax returns for 2018. That would push the deadline from April 15, 2019, to May 20, 2019.
Five weeks isn’t a random number. The shutdown—the longest ever in U.S. history—lasted that long: 35 days. Tax season opened on January 28, 2019, with Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner Chuck Rettig assuring taxpayers, “The IRS will be doing everything it can to have a smooth filing season.” But so far, that’s not necessarily been the case.
In her remarks about the bill, Underwood noted that “just before many families went to file their taxes, there was a senseless government shutdown that left tax filers’ calls unanswered, doors for assistance centers locked, and 90 percent of the IRS workforce home without pay. This is common-sense legislation that will help give taxpayers extra time to ask questions and file their taxes this year.”
In addition to the delays attributable to the shutdown, Casten and Underwood claim that “more time is also critical to ensure that taxpayers have the online tools they need to file their returns electronically.” Antiquated computer systems have long been a thorn in the side of the IRS, with Nina Olson, the National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA), telling Congress that it was the top issue facing taxpayers this year.
(You can read more about Olson’s report here.)
Last year, the IRS experienced computer system issues on Tax Day, April 17, 2018. As a result, the IRS was forced to extend the filing season, giving taxpayers an additional day to file and pay their taxes. Olson warned that crash last year “prompted talk of the risk of a catastrophic systems collapse.” As a result, Casten and Underwood believe that granting an extension now would help to avoid computer breakdowns by helping to “alleviate the system overburden so that tax filers are provided the services they need and deserve.”
(You can read more about the Tax Day 2018 crash here.)
A report calling for more time released by National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF) used Olson’s report as a starting point for calling for more time for taxpayers this filing season. The NTUF also pointed to the shaky start to the tax filing season, which began only a few days after the shutdown ended. So far, there hasn’t been much improvement, with filing statistics indicating that taxpayers aren’t filing as quickly as they did last year.
(You can see those numbers and find out more here.)
Andrew Moylan, NTUF’s executive vice president, and Andrew Wilford, an NTUF policy analyst, suggested in their report that, “[b]y taking swift and decisive action, Congress and the IRS can help to ease the time crunch that threatens to harm taxpayers and further disrupt IRS operations.”
(You can read more about their analysis here.)
The NTUF suggested that an appropriate time frame for an extension would be at least one calendar month, pushing Tax Day for individual taxpayers to May 15, 2019. Casten and Underwood, however, are pushing for a few more days with Casten calling the level of service available to taxpayers earlier in the season “unacceptable.”