The Treasury Department is looking increasingly likely to extend the April 15 tax deadline in an effort to provide some potential relief to American households and businesses that are facing economic uncertainty due to the spread of coronavirus. How any potential extension would work remains to be seen and the Wall Street Journal reports that the Trump administration is still working out who might be eligible for any extension and how long it would be. The government could also potentially waive penalties and interest for late payments for taxpayers filing late.
Delaying tax payments as a form of stimulus would require the Treasury to borrow in the immediate term to offer what amounts to a short-term loan to American taxpayers as they navigate the coronavirus economy that could spiral into recession. The government budgets and spends based on estimated revenues collected largely through taxes. Last April, for instance, Americans paid $333 billion alone in individual income taxes. Through the end of February, the IRS had received less than half the expected returns to be filed. The IRS has the authority to amend the filing deadlines in specific cases; delaying tax deadlines has been common practice in response to natural disasters.
Moving back Tax Day could also have logistical benefits, the New York Times notes, as the federal workforce is expected to be working remotely for an unspecified period of time. Tax season often requires a range of face-to-face contacts—with the IRS and tax professionals—that could also pose risks if the virus continues to spread as it has in other countries around the world.