The 2019-2020 filing season has definitely taken a turn this year. A few weeks ago, the idea of COVID-19 seemed like an unfortunate health problem on the other side of the world. Then it happened: A pandemic came knocking on our nation’s door and the coronavirus, oh so rudely, showed up right here in the Hoosier state.
With the uninvited arrival of COVID-19 to the Circle City, there’s no doubt we’ve all been affected by such a wave of events. Our schools were abruptly shut down, causing parents everywhere to worry about securing child care and the very jobs that many can no longer go to. Now we’re all at home, trying to adjust to constant changes, and it all happened during what can already be a stressful time of year for some: tax season.
As we work from home, enjoy unexpected time with our families and catch up on some television, many taxpayers are left confused about what to do next. Here’s some helpful information to help taxpayers relax about their taxes.
The Tax Deadline Has Changed
Generally taxpayers are expected to file their tax return and pay any taxes due by the usual April 15 deadline. But this year, stay-at-home orders and social distancing have presented taxpayers with unique filing obstacles. Considering the stress of tax filings and payments on the nation’s taxpayers, Congress took action and extended the tax deadline 90 days to July 15.
You Can Still File Now, You Don’t Have To Wait
Previously the IRS encouraged taxpayers to file as soon as possible to counter tax fraud but this year they want taxpayers to file as soon as possible to curb the economic hardship being caused by COVID-19. Though you have more time to file, the time to file is now. Filing now can relieve some of the financial and mental stress caused by the coronavirus outbreak and help keep the local economy afloat. According to the IRS, this season’s average refund isapproximately $3,125 and the sooner taxpayers get their money the more secure they’ll likely feel.
Reconsider Filing Options
Right now, taxpayers can’t just walk into a free tax prep site or a tax office and get your taxes done. Local community centers, libraries and other IRS VITA/TCE sites have closed their doors to protect their communities and staff and help slow the virus spread. And tax offices are not open to the public so you may need to consider other filing options. The IRS has online options for free tax filing. If you normally visit a tax office, contact your tax pro to see what other options are available. Ask your tax preparer if they’re able to prepare your tax return virtually or over the phone, so that you don’t have to go into the office. Many tax pros are prepared to help taxpayers in a way that keeps everyone safe by offering alternatives to on-site appointments. You may be able to forward your tax documents through encrypted email, a secure online portal or mail tax documents so that you don’t have to meet face to face. Be sure to have all necessary documents ready for easy filing and inquire about the procedures to keep your documents safe.
Beware of Scammers and Fraud
Unfortunately in times like these, people may not always be who they seem. In the midst of a crisis, there’s always someone looking to take advantage of the situation. Beware of scammers and protect your personal information. The IRS or Indiana Department of Revenue (IN-DOR) will never call you to demand immediate payment, threaten to immediately bring in law-enforcement for not paying or demand a credit card over the phone. If you’re looking for a tax preparer, be sure to check the IRS Preparer Directory, ask questions and read reviews to avoid the wrong preparer. Coronavirus scams are real so protect yourself and report fraudulent activity. If you think you’ve been a victim of tax fraud or other scam be sure to contact the IRS, Indiana DOR or the Indiana Attorney General’s office.
Stay Calm and Stay Informed
Support each other and stay positive. If you’re headed out for essentials, check in with elderly family and neighbors to see if there’s anything they need. Remember that everyone is feeling the impact in some way. Pay attention to the news and discuss concerns with those you trust and encourage your loved ones to do the same. We’re all a team in this! Following government health regulations, properly washing hands and following other CDC guidelines is critical to our success in defeating COVID-19. Be light-hearted, share hoarded toilet paper, don’t let the kids eat all your snacks, tell lots of jokes, and smile!
For more information on the coronavirus and how to slow the spread visit CDC.gov.
Brittany Sabalza, enrolled agent, is director of continuing education for Pro Tax Solutions Indianapolis and a tax columnist.