With the COVID-19 crisis taking center stage for most news outlets, it's easy to forget about a nagging task that many Americans have yet to accomplish: filing taxes. If you still haven't checked that item off your list, here are a few tips to keep in mind during this very unusual tax season.
1. File early if you're due a refund
Because of the greater health crisis, the tax-filing and tax-payment deadlines have been pushed back from April 15 to July 15 this year at the federal level, and many states are following suit. On the one hand, that extension may seem like a good thing, because it means you don't have to deal with the hassle of submitting a tax return in the next two weeks while life is in disarray. On the other hand, if you're owed money from the IRS, putting off your taxes another three months will only delay that refund in getting to you. And if you're out of work, or have been spending extra money stocking up on supplies and the like, then having that cash sooner could come in handy.
If you submit your taxes electronically, you can generally expect to see your refund within three weeks, provided there's no problem with your return. Paper returns generally have a six-week turnaround for refunds.
2. Hold off on paying if you owe money and your income has taken a hit
Though most tax filers get a refund from the IRS when they submit their returns, that doesn't hold true for everyone. If you complete your taxes and learn that you owe money for 2019, you can submit your return but wait until July 15 to send in that payment -- and you should wait if you're out of work right now, or are grappling with financial hardships because of the greater crisis at hand.
Furthermore, if you're in a bad spot financially come July 15 and therefore can't pay your tax bill in full, reach out to the IRS and ask about getting on an installment plan to pay off your debt. This isn't a special allowance due to COVID-19; it's an option that exists every year for tax filers who have difficulty paying.
3. Find a tax preparer who can work with you remotely
Many people are used to sitting down with a tax preparer face to face to get their returns done. But this year, that option isn't safe. If your tax situation is complicated and you're worried about filing a return on your own, find a tax preparer who can work with you from afar. Many of these professionals can give you access to a secure online portal where you scan and submit your tax documents electronically rather than provide them in person. That way, you get the help you need, and you put one potentially stressful task in the hands of someone who's capable.
There's no escaping taxes -- not even during a pandemic. But a few smart moves on your part could make the process of filing and paying them less stressful on a whole.