We still don’t know when the 2019 tax filing season will start.
But that uncertainty has no bearing on the tax deadlines we’re all expected to meet, even when some of Uncle Sam’s offices are closed or operating with fewer staff than normal.
The Internal Revenue Service usually begins accepting and processing returns around mid- to late-January.
Meeting that traditional opening date already was going to be tough. The agency has been in crunch mode for the last 12+ months with the added work of making sure forms, instructions and guidance reflect all the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) changes.
As 2018 was winding down, IRS officials said they were confident the coming filing season would be pretty close to the opening timetable that taxpayers have come to expect.
Then came the government shutdown.
Shutdown slowdown? The IRS is one of the federal agencies affected by this latest closure.
And while IRS employees that have been designated as essential have been working (without pay) during the shutdown, I’m still a bit concerned that things might be running a bit behind.
We already know that if the IRS is forced to operate shorthanded during filing season, it won’t issue refunds. Yep, getting taxpayers’ overpaid amounts to them is not at the top of the agency’s closure contingency plan. (The shutdown guidelines are liked to be revised now that we’re into 2019.)
But all of us taxpayers, whether we owe taxes or are expecting a refund, will still be required to meet the already established 2019 tax deadlines.
This is not a new policy. Back in October 2013 when Uncle Sam shut his doors for 16 days, the closure fell during the filing extension deadline. The IRS still expected those procrastinators to get their returns in by Oct. 15 even if the agency couldn’t immediately get to them.
So as frustrating as it might be in this uncertain filing time, mark your tax calendars.
Two April tax due dates: The biggie is, of course, in mid-April.
For most of us, 1040 forms are due this year on the usual day, April 15. That’s a Monday if you don’t have a calendar handy.
However, taxpayers in Maine and Massachusetts get two extra days. Their federal tax returns aren’t due until Wednesday, April 17 because April is Patriots’ Day, which is a holiday in those states.
In case it’s been a while since you were in a U.S. history class, Patriots’ Day commemorates the first battles of the Revolutionary War in the Massachusetts towns of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775.
Patriots’ Day was originally celebrated on the actual day that Americans fired their first musket shots for freedom, but the holiday eventually was moved to create a three-day weekend. It’s now officially on the third Monday of April.
Since that falls on Tax Day 2019, taxpayers in the states where it’s a holiday — in this case Maine and Massachusetts — don’t have to meet the April 15 deadline.
And sorry, Wisconsin taxpayers. Although y’all also celebrate Patriots’ Day, you don’t get extra filing time because you stick to the original April 19 holiday date, which is after the regular April Tax Day.
D.C. holiday consideration: I see you looking at your calendar now and wondering why these New Englanders get two extra days instead of sending in their returns on Tuesday, April 16.
It’s because the 16th is a holiday for the IRS, or at least its headquarters in the nation’s capital.
April 16 is Emancipation Day, which celebrates Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Compensated Emancipation Act on that day in 1862. It officially slavery in the District of Columbia and remains a holiday there.
Federal law, however, calls for holidays observed in the District of Columbia to also be observed by federal agencies.
Since the IRS main office will be closed that day, Maine and Massachusetts filers get the filing day off, too. That pushes their Tax Day to April 17.
While those dates seem far away right now, time has a way of unexpectedly catching up to us, especially when it comes to tax deadlines. So be ready.
And let’s hope that all IRS systems are fully funded and ready go well before then!