coronavirus pandemic

Time's Running out to File Taxes

NBC 7 Responds talked to the IRS to see what people need to know while filing their taxes

NBCUniversal, Inc.

The IRS gave everyone a 90-day extension to file their taxes because of the coronavirus pandemic, so if you haven't yet filed, time is running out because that extension expires on Wednesday.

"The year we're filing is still for 2019," IRS spokeswoman Raphael Tulino said.

The IRS knows some people are in a tough financial situation, but Tulino said that everyone should still file in order to avoid penalties, even if you cannot afford to pay the agency everything you owe.

"If you have a balance due, at least send that form in with some sort of payment," Tulino said. "Let's work things out as we go, in terms of payments over time, but take care of business as best you can."

Filers can still request an extension if they need more time to file. The extension would be good till Oct. 15, but that doesn't delay when payments to the IRS are due. Taxpayers can start paying down how much they owe, even if they filed for an extension, Tulino said.

"You would want to send us money only after you filed or with an extension," Tulino said. "If you do owe money and you send it, put your information on the check so we can match it up with your Social Security number [or taxpayer identification number]."

There are also some changes taxpayers should be aware of because of the tax reform bill, which was passed a few years ago. That law nearly doubled the standard deduction and removed personal exemptions. It also changed the amount of property, state and local taxes that can be deducted.

Tulino said that the CARES act, which was passed to help people during the coronavirus pandemic, also made some changes to the taxing of retirement accounts. That can help people who need to take money out of an IRA or 401k account because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"You can do that and the 10 percent penalty is waived this year, through the end of the year, up to $100,000 of distribution," Tulino said.

While people will still be required to pay taxes for withdrawing money from retirement accounts early, they can pay the taxes over three years instead of the usual one year.

Tulino also said to be on the lookout for people impersonating the IRS who are trying to run a scam.

"We will not contact you with a random, threatening phone call, a robocall or a random email asking you to click on a link," Tulino said.

The IRS will, instead, first contact you through a letter in the mail.

There is another deadline people need to be aware of. Taxpayers have until July 15 at midnight to file for a 2016 tax return refund; otherwise, that money will go to the U.S. Treasury.

"These are unclaimed refunds," Tulino said. "It's about $1.5 billion nationally, and $200 million or so here in California."

Tulino recommends people use an efiling service, several of which are free to use. Or they can go to the IRS website to find a list of free filing services they may qualify for.

So far, millions of people have already filed their tax returns. Tulino said that about 30 percent of people file their taxes by April 15. As of July 1, the IRS has already received more returns than usual.

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