The Trump administration is likely to extend the April 15 tax deadline as part of an effort to mitigate the effects of the novel coronavirus on U.S. households and businesses, according to an administration official and another person familiar with the matter.
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Neither the decision to extend the deadline nor the mechanics of how such an extension might work are yet final.
Normally, individuals must pay their prior year’s taxes by April 15 or face penalties and interest charges. People can already get extensions through mid-October to file their returns as long as they have paid on time by mid-April. This decision would go further than that.
Extending the tax filing deadline would effectively act as a bridge loan for individuals and businesses facing disruptions from the virus. Treasury officials are still considering how far the filing deadline may be pushed back and who would be eligible for the extension, according to the person familiar with the discussions.
Officials believe they have the legal authority to waive penalties on late tax payments if they move back the filing date and are exploring whether they have the ability to waive the interest under an emergency disaster declaration.
Extending the deadline would also have temporary implications for the federal budget and borrowing. The Treasury depends on estimates of federal revenues to ensure it has enough cash to keep paying the government’s bills on time.
Delaying tax payments could force the Treasury to borrow more in the near-term. April is the largest month for federal tax payments; last year, Treasury collected $333 billion in individual income taxes that month.
Earlier Tuesday, House Democrats asked the IRS whether the government should consider pushing back the April 15 deadline, mentioning the government’s existing authority to extend deadlines and waive penalties. The IRS often extends filing deadlines in affected areas after natural disasters, and the tax code specifically authorizes the Treasury to grant delays following presidentially declared disasters.
Besides the main April 15 deadline for individuals, there are also other tax deadlines for estimated payments and other types of taxpayers.
The Internal Revenue Service and the White House didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Although the IRS has largely been operating normally, many taxpayer interactions do occur face-to-face, including at clinics for low-income taxpayers and assistance centers run by the IRS. Taxpayers also often meet in person with tax practitioners.
As of the end of February, the IRS had received 59 million returns, or less than half the total it expects to get during the full filing season.
President Trump this week outlined a slate of policy options the administration is considering to help cushion the U.S. economy from the effects of the widening epidemic, including a payroll tax cut, paid sick leave expansion and emergency lending for small businesses. While some of the major initiatives would require legislation, officials have said they are also weighing proposals that could be done through administrative action.
Mr. Trump met with Senate Republicans to discuss the proposals Tuesday, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin began negotiations with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) over a stimulus package. The House is aiming to vote on something before it leaves Washington on Thursday, likely a measure aimed at helping workers, a congressional aide said.
Among the other ideas Republicans are discussing, according to a person in the meeting, are expanding a tax credit for family-leave programs that Congress created in 2017; fixing an error in the 2017 law that affects retailers and restaurants; and delaying estimated tax payments.