Pandemic makes meeting Sept. 15 filing deadline difficult

By Alistair M. Nevius, J.D.

With Sept. 15 tax filing deadlines looming, some tax practitioners have expressed concerns that they will not be able to meet those deadlines for a variety of reasons related to the global pandemic. Issues mentioned by AICPA members range from the extra time spent with economically challenged clients; to unexpected deadlines due to assisting with Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan applications and the PPP loan forgiveness process; to clients, members, and staff being incapacitated with COVID-19. 

In July, the AICPA communicated its concerns to Treasury and the IRS in a letter to David J. Kautter, Treasury's assistant secretary for tax policy, and IRS Commissioner Charles P. Rettig. The AICPA urged automatic waiver of failure-to-file and failure-to-pay penalties for taxpayers affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, the AICPA has been in communication with the IRS to share the concerns of tax practitioners and their clients.

From these discussions, the AICPA understands that the IRS is willing to work with taxpayers who need relief. Practitioners that have made a good-faith effort to meet the filing deadlines on behalf of their clients, but are unable to do so due to COVID-19, should write "COVID-19" in an attachment to the return briefly describing the reason they cannot meet the deadlines, or, if possible, should write "COVID-19" at the top of the tax return to indicate the need for penalty relief. 

The AICPA suggests that practitioners should contact their software providers with questions regarding appropriate form notations. If the software provider requires a state-specific disaster code, those may be found at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Declared Disasters page.

If an affected taxpayer that had indicated the need for penalty relief due to COVID-19 receives a late-filing or late-payment penalty notice from the IRS, the practitioner should gather the appropriate facts and call the telephone number on the notice to resolve the issue. Additionally, practitioners should be aware that under reasonable cause standards, "[a]ny reason that establishes a taxpayer exercised ordinary business care and prudence but nevertheless failed to comply with the tax law may be considered for penalty relief" (Internal Revenue Manual §20.1.1.3.2.1).

The Sept. 15 deadline applies to a number of federal tax returns, including Form 1120S, U.S. Income Tax Return for an S Corporation, for calendar-year S corporations that requested a six-month extension and Form 1065, U.S. Return of Partnership Income, for partnerships that requested a six-month extension. 

Earlier this year, because of the pandemic, the IRS postponed a number of tax filing and payment deadlines that fell between April 1 and July 15 (Notice 2020-23), but has not postponed deadlines falling after that period, except in the case of taxpayers affected by certain natural disasters.

For more news and reporting on the coronavirus and how CPAs can handle challenges related to the outbreak, visit the JofA's coronavirus resources page.

For tax-related resources, visit the AICPA's coronavirus (COVID-19) tax resources page.

— Alistair M. Nevius, J.D., (Alistair.Nevius@aicpa-cima.com) is the JofA's editor in chief, tax.

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