Smart Tax Planning

Lawmakers push to extend tax filing season to July 15

Key Points
  • Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., today proposed granting taxpayers 90 more days to submit last year’s tax return.
  • Citing coronavirus concerns, Treasury Department gave filers until July 15 to pay taxes, but maintained the April 15 due date for filing.
  • Accountants and tax preparers have been frustrated by Treasury’s decision to keep the April 15 deadline.
Sen. John Thune (R-SD)
Aaron P. Bernstein | Reuters

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., has proposed giving taxpayers until July 15 to submit their 2019 income tax returns – 90 days from the original April 15 due date.

The Tax Filing Relief for America Act, which Senators Steve Daines, R-Mont., and Angus King, I-Maine, are joining Thune in introducing, aims to have the filing deadline coincide with the new July 15 deadline for taxpayers to pay the IRS taxes owed for 2019. Senators Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., are co-sponsors.

Earlier this week, the Treasury Department announced it would give taxpayers more time to pay what they owed, due to coronavirus concerns.

But the federal agency decided to stick with the original April 15 due date for filing the returns.

House Ways and Means chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., also called on Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to move the federal income tax filing deadline to July 15.

"I believe that having two separate deadlines – one for filing and one for payment – will potentially create a great deal of confusion for taxpayers accustomed to having only one deadline," Neal wrote in his March 19 letter to Mnuchin.

The two-date system has caused confusion and consternation for filers and tax professionals.

Watch CNBC's full interview with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin

"Offering taxpayers only relief for federal income tax payments but not the filing of any tax or information returns is not sufficient, nor does it recognize the burdens our citizens are facing across the country," said Edward Karl, vice president of taxation with the American Institute of CPAs, in a statement.

While you can request a six-month extension, accountants and preparers are already under pressure to get through the tax season. The coronavirus pandemic only adds to their worries as many face the prospect of interruption to their businesses.

To add to the mix-up, tax professionals also have to keep track of how states are proceeding with their deadlines, as some have changed the due dates of their returns and payment of state income taxes.

"Can we please stop tax season, give us a few weeks to catch our breath and stay safe, keep clients safe?" asked Margaret Dunn, enrolled agent and tax preparer in Monterey, California.

"We have taxpayers who are trying to walk into the front door of the office and get their taxes done," she said. "I don't know who they've been in contact with."

Legislation to push the filing deadline back just might stand a chance at moving forward, said Erica York, economist with the Center for Federal Tax Policy at Tax Foundation.

"I do think this has some capacity to go somewhere or, if not become law, at least influence the Treasury Department to change the deadline itself," she said. "We're seeing interest in the House and Senate, plus the tax filing community is calling for the change, too."