Democrats seek to delay tax filing deadline

With tax season underway, some House Democrats are seeking to delay the filing deadline after they say a prolonged government shutdown set this year’s season off to a rocky start.

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The Tax Payer Extension Act, as it is called, is sponsored by Illinois Reps. Sean Casten and Lauren Underwood, who want to push the deadline to May 20, from the current April 15 cutoff.

“When President Trump shut down the government for 5 weeks, Americans were left high and dry,” Casten said in a statement. “When tax filers – many hit with sticker shock thanks to the Trump tax changes -- called the customer assistance line, their questions went unanswered. When they visited the walk-in taxpayer assistance centers, they found locked doors. This is unacceptable.”

The IRS recalled 60 percent of its furloughed workforce during the record-long government shutdown to make sure refunds would be processed.

However, the National Taxpayer Advocate reported a “shocking” decline in IRS services during the first official week of the season, which kicked off on Jan. 28: Fewer than half (48 percent) of calls made by people looking for help filing returns were answered, while the average wait time was about 17 minutes. During the same period last year, 86 percent of calls were answered and the wait time was only about 4 minutes.

On Thursday, advocate Nina Olson once again sounded the alarm during a hearing held by the House Ways and Means Committee subpanel.

The level of service across IRS telephone lines has dropped to 48 percent so far this year, down from 71 percent last year, as the average wait time rose 7 minutes, Olson said on Thursday. That decline in service is occurring despite the fact that fewer calls are coming in.

She also advocated for Congress to provide more penalty relief to those who may have underpaid their taxes throughout the year, as a result of the new tax law and withholding structure, as reported by The Hill.

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This tax season there has been a public outcry as some people have seen declining or nonexistent refunds. Others have even said they owe the IRS for the first time.

However, recent IRS data suggests refund amounts are in line with last year’s, though the total number of refund checks doled out is down 4.8 percent.