Top Democrats Push IRS to Extend Tax-Filing Deadline, Citing Pandemic

March 8, 2021 Updated: March 8, 2021

Two top Democrats in the House of Representatives on Monday urged the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to mimic what was done last year and extend the tax filing deadline, citing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.) and Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.) said in a statement that the pandemic is putting a “titanic strain” on both the IRS and taxpayers.

They supported the claim by noting that the number of returns filed by the end of February was down 25 percent from last year at the same time, with the number of returns processed by the IRS down by 31 percent.

The lawmakers also said that internal data showed only about one in four calls to the IRS are being answered. At the same time, according to publicly available figures, the IRS has seen a 75 percent increase in visits to its website this year when compared to 2020, as of Feb. 21.

“We stand in the midst of the most important tax filing season in recent memory, and taxpayers cannot get the help they need from the IRS. Returns received by the IRS have fallen significantly behind last year’s numbers. On top of all that, once it is signed into law, the American Rescue Plan will change the tax laws applicable to unemployment benefits received in 2020 and reported on returns filed during this filing season. Taxpayers need more time to file accurate returns and get their questions answered by the IRS,” the Democrats said in a joint statement.

“Last year, the tax filing season was extended by three months to July 15, 2020. We want to remind the IRS that many Americans continue to face the same health and economic challenges that necessitated an extension last year. Facing enormous strain and anxiety, taxpayers need flexibility now. We demand that the IRS announce an extension as soon as possible,” they added.

The IRS didn’t return a voicemail.

Charles Rettig, the tax agency’s commissioner, told members of Congress last month that there were no plans to extend the tax filing season.

“Keep in mind, it creates a lot of confusion for taxpayers. It also backs up the Internal Revenue Service. As many of you know, for over a month, we actually shut down our systems to import stuff from the prior year so we can have a smooth filing season in the succeeding year,” he said during a hearing on Capitol Hill.

Rettig noted that under normal rules, taxpayers can file for extensions on a case-by-case basis. If they do, they’ll have until Oct. 15 to file. The deadline for others as of now is April 15.

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