Individual Tax Returns: FAQ and Guidance for the 2019 Filing Timeline

This week we are excited to invite High Water Women Volunteer Eric L. Scheer, CPA, to provide some clarity around this year’s individual tax return filing process.

Eric L. Scheer, CPA is a sole practitioner specializing in tax planning and compliance for high net worth individuals and senior corporate executives, many who are in the financial services industry. Eric’s prior experience includes the Private Client Advisors group at Deloitte and Touche and the Personal Financial Counseling group at Ernst & Young. Eric holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) degree, with a concentration in accounting, from Boston University. He can be reached at ericlscheercpa@earthlink.net if you have any follow-up questions!

 

The usual April 15 tax deadline has been changed to July 15 for 2019 individual tax returns which are filed in 2020.

What does that mean?

Individual tax returns are filed based on calendar years. Generally, if a tax return is required, it is due to be filed by April 15 of the following year. 2019 tax returns were due by April 15, 2020 and many people filed by then. However, because of the current public health situation, the federal government changed the due date to July 15 (for 2019 returns only). Most states, including New York, followed and changed their state tax return due dates to to July 15, to agree with the federal change.

(Most people who file tax returns need to file both a federal and a state tax return. For 2019, a single personal under age 65 who is not a dependent of another must file a tax return if their gross income was at least $12,200. There may be additional special situations where one would want to file a tax return even if their income was below this level. Also, a single person with a child may be considered a Head of Household, and be subject to different filing requirements as would married people and Qualifying Widow(er)s. The filing requirements can be found here, https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/i1040gi.pdf, on pages 8-11.)

 

OK, so what does this mean to me?

Well, it’s already May as I write this, and many people I know have not been able to think about filing tax returns. They missed that April 15 deadline. You may have too. But no worries. For this year, April 15 no longer matters. The due date is now July 15. If you file your 2019 tax return by July 15 it will be filed on time. You will not be charged additional tax, interest or penalties.

This also applies to any tax payments due with a tax return. While most people get tax refunds, many others have to make payments when they file their tax returns. If they do not pay by the tax return due date, they are likely to be charged extra, in the form of interest and/or penalties. For 2019 tax payments due, no additional charges will be made if the payment is made by July 15.

 

Ok, so I should wait until July to file my taxes, right?

Well, probably no. If you are among the majority of people who receive tax refunds, you may want to file sooner so you’ll receive the refund money sooner. But if you cannot do that, or you cannot deal with thinking about taxes now, you do have the extra time until July 15.

If you do expect to owe money with your tax return, you might want to wait to closer to July 15 to file, so you can hang onto your money longer. But you should remember you will have to make that payment by July 15 or face additional charges.

 

Why are you now saying closer to July 15 and not by July 15?

Oh, you noticed that. Well, good. The due date is July 15. I don’t like to wait to the very last minute to do things. (Alright, I do. But I don’t recommend that to others.) Especially if you use a professional or volunteer tax preparer to help with your returns, you may want to leave extra time. I expect most tax preparers will be unusually busy in July this year.

 

Please note the following from the IRS publication which I referenced earlier:

Free Tax Help Available Nationwide

Volunteers are available in communities nationwide providing free tax assistance to low-to-moderate income (generally under $56,000 in adjusted gross income) and elderly taxpayers (age 60 and older). At selected sites, taxpayers can input and electronically file their own tax return with the assistance of an IRS-certifed volunteer.

See How To Get Tax Help near the end of these instructions for additional information or visit IRS.gov (Keyword: VITA) for a VITA/TCE site near you!

There is other information on how to file tax returns in that publication.

 

What if I still can’t get my tax returns filed by July 15?

Sure, that happens sometimes. You can file for an automatic extension of time to file your return. This is an easy form. Really just a slip of paper more than a form. (We tax accountants often call them vouchers.)

 

Great and it’s automatic, you say?

Yes and no. And more no. You must actually file the form to request the extension. You will automatically be granted the extension if you file the form by July 15. You will then be given until October 15 to file your tax returns. (You will need to file a separate extension request form for NYS too.)

But there’s a big catch. This time, extra time is only for filing the return. The paperwork, not the money. If you owe tax, you must pay that tax when you file your extension requests or your will be charged additional money when you file your tax returns.

It’s possible there may be an additional deadline change down the road. It’s been reported the federal government is considering again changing the due date, (now July 15) to September 15. But that has not happened yet and may not happen at all.

Maybe it will change again. Maybe not. As of now, the due date for your 2019 personal tax return is July 15, 2020. That’s the date I’m marking on my calendar. File your returns (or, if you must, your extension request forms) by then. Give yourself some extra time before the deadline. And make your tax payments, if you owe money, even if you don’t file the return.

 

And Stay Safe, Stay Inside, Save Lives!