Will they or won’t they? That’s the question on the minds of many taxpayers as rumors swirl about a potential extension of the tax filing season. 

Sometimes rumors are just a mix of speculation and whisper down the lane. But this one really does have some basis in fact: Members of the House Ways and Means Committee sent a letter to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner Charles Rettig asking for an update about how the coronavirus is affecting the tax return filing season.

The letter, which was signed by 16 committee members, noted that “Specifically, we are concerned about the ability of the IRS to provide taxpayer assistance and process returns, as well as the ability of taxpayers, free tax preparation sites, and tax professionals to meet the filing deadline.” 

The letter went on to ask for a “continued evaluation of whether there is any need to extend the tax filing season this year beyond the April 15th deadline.” The committee members also noted that the IRS has the authority to extend the deadline.

The language granting that power is found in the Internal Revenue Code at section 6081:

The Secretary may grant a reasonable extension of time for filing any return, declaration, statement, or other document required by this title or by regulations.

The letter also suggested that the IRS “consider the need for relief from certain filing and payment penalties for taxpayers and communities impacted by COVID-19.” COVID-19 is the official name for the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. According to the World Health Organization, “This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.” As of March 11, 2020, the WHO had confirmed 118,162 cases in 113 countries. The United States has reported 696 cases as of March 9, 2020.

Last week, the IRS noted that it was monitoring the coronavirus and will “promptly respond to any emerging situations to protect our employees and taxpayers interacting with the agency.” 

Moving the deadline isn’t unheard of: it happened in 2018 when computer system issues popped up on the tax deadline. That year, the IRS gave taxpayers an additional day to file and pay their taxes.

So far, there has been no official proposal in Congress to extend the deadline in 2020. As of today, the deadline for filing remains April 15, 2020. The IRS advises that “Taxpayers should continue to file and submit tax returns as they normally would.” If you need more time, consider filing for an extension.

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Kelly Erb is a tax attorney, tax writer and podcaster.

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