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Tax Filing Deadline, Refund Delays, and Due Diligence


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The tax filing deadline for personal taxes is ordinarily April 15th of the year following the tax year. If the fifteenth falls on a weekend, taxes are due on the first working day thereafter, ordinarily Monday. But, occasionally, Monday is a holiday. Following are the details for the 2017 filing season.

Due Date for Taxes

For 2017 taxes, the tax deadline would ordinarily be April 15, 2018. However, April 15th falls on a Sunday. Monday, April 16, 2018 is Emancipation Day and, in Washington, D.C., federal offices are closed in honor of that holiday. So, 2017 taxes are due Tuesday, April 17, 2018. They need to be e-filed or postmarked by midnight on that date.

That date is also the date to file for an extension of six months. You certainly won’t be alone. Each year, about 9-10 million people file for an extension. Even President Trump filed for an extension for his 2016 taxes. You might file an extension if you do not have time to prepare your tax return, you are missing necessary tax documents, you are filing for the first time, your filing status is changing, or there is a family emergency. The extended due date is October 15, 2018.

It is important to remember that an extension of time to file is not an extension of time to pay if you owe taxes. To avoid penalties and interest for late payment, you should pay your taxes when you file your extension. If you cannot pay the full amount, pay as much as you can, and then work out a payment arrangement with the IRS to pay the balance. You will still incur penalties and interest, but they will be less than if you pay nothing.

Required Refund Delays

The PATH Act of 2015 (Protecting Americans From Tax Hikes) required that the IRS delay refunds for returns including the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit until February 15, 2016. This provision remains in effect. It is designed to allow the IRS a greater amount of time to verify the legitimacy of claims. These credits account for some $12 billion (or more) in tax fraud each year. The refund delay is one way of helping interdict fraudulent returns.

Another thing the IRS has done is to put the onus on paid tax preparers to perform due diligence to verify that taxpayers have the right to claim these credits (along with the American Opportunity Credit), as well as the amount of such credits. Preparers are liable for a $510 penalty for each instance of lack of due diligence. With each return containing these credits, the preparer must submit a due-diligence checklist (Form 8867), and must retain copies of documents and questions used to verify eligibility for the credits.

So, try not to get too overwrought if your preparer asks you a host of questions, some of which may feel intrusive. Preparers are committed to getting you all the credits for which you qualify, but at the same time, need to keep themselves out of trouble by making sure taxpayers are qualified for the credits.

This includes verifying that the dependents claimed are really yours, that they have Social Security numbers, that they lived with you for the appropriate amount of time, that your income is verifiable (especially if you have a small business and file a Schedule C), that you have a record of your educational expenses (not just your 1098-T, but your student account), that you cannot be claimed as a dependent by someone else, and so on.

Final Word

On occasion, the tax deadline may be later than April 15th. However, you can help assure you file on time by always getting your taxes done before the 15th.

New requirements about delayed refunds and tax preparer due diligence, motivated by Congress and the IRS to prevent fraud, may result in your tax return taking longer to prepare, and your preparer asking for additional documentation. Bear in mind that preventing tax fraud saves you money. Those fraudulent refunds are money out of your pocket as a taxpayer.

Have you noticed more questions from your tax preparer? What are ways you can assist your preparer in preparing a complete and accurate return?


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Gary's extensive professional background varies from small business owner to school administrator. Most recently, he has been involved in taxes, first as a certified preparer, and later as a tax software developer. He is currently licensed to practice before the IRS, volunteers as an instructor for AARP's Tax-Aide program, and has his own tax practice.