COVID-19 delays tax filing timeline, scammers jump at opportunity

Many Americans are looking at a different financial situation now than they were a few months ago, with several businesses closing their doors to encourage employees to stay home and help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

To help Americans have one less financial worry, the Internal Revenue Service has moved the original deadline for taxes to be filed.

Federal income taxes now have until July 15 to be filed, which is postponed 90 days from the previous deadline of April 15. Taxpayers are also able to defer payment for taxes until July 15.

“Even with the filing deadline extended, we urge taxpayers who are owed refunds to file as soon as possible and file electronically,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig in an IRS press release. “Filing electronically with direct deposit is the quickest way to get refunds.

“Although we are curtailing some operations during this period, the IRS is continuing with mission-critical operations to support the nation, and that includes accepting tax returns and sending refunds,” Rettig added. “As a federal agency vital to the overall operations of our country, we ask for your personal support, your understanding – and your patience.”

Russellville Certified Public Accountant Joe Tucker said he recommends filing early rather than waiting until closer to the deadline.

“The biggest benefit is going to be for people who are receiving a refund so they can go ahead and get that, but it’s good to go ahead and file even if you have to pay so that you know how much you are going to owe,” Tucker said.

Tucker said he always recommends filing through a CPA to receive the most benefits from filing taxes.

“We are professionals and spend 40 hours a year staying up to date on new tax laws,” Tucker said. “We know where to go to look for benefits, and we are always up to date on the latest changes so taxes can be filed most accurately.”

Tucker said by knowing Alabama’s specific laws for filing taxes, most clients save more money from deductibles than the amount they pay to see a CPA.

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRS also urges people to be aware of possible new tax scams involving people trying to take advantage of the pandemic.

“We urge people to take extra care during this period,” Rettig said. “The IRS isn’t going to call you asking to verify or provide your financial information so you can get an economic impact payment or your refund faster.

“That also applies to surprise emails that appear to be coming from the IRS,” Rettig added. “Remember, don’t open them or click on attachments or links. Go to IRS.gov for the most up-to-date information.”

People should also be aware of any text messages, website or social media messages requesting money or personal information.

“History has shown that criminals take every opportunity to perpetrate a fraud on unsuspecting victims, especially when a group of people is vulnerable or in a state of need,” said IRS criminal investigation Chief Don Fort. “While you are waiting to hear about your economic impact payment, criminals are working hard to trick you into getting their hands on it.

“The IRS Criminal Investigation Division is working hard to find these scammers and shut them down, but in the meantime, we ask people to remain vigilant.”

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