IRS chief: Tax-deadline postponement could delay launch of child tax credit program

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The delay in the tax-filing deadline could potentially postpone the launch of a new monthly child tax credit payment program, the head of the IRS warned Thursday.

Commissioner Chuck Rettig also said he expected that people will not have to file amended returns in order to claim a new tax break on jobless benefits.

Appearing before a House tax subcommittee, he rejected suggestions the agency postpone its deadline for filing quarterly estimated tax payments, as it did for annual returns.

And Rettig pushed back against complaints about a backlog of unprocessed tax returns at the agency, pointing to the coronavirus pandemic and recent tax legislation approved by Congress.

“The importance of getting through this is not lost on anyone,” he told the Ways and Means subcommittee on oversight.

His comments came one day after the IRS announced it was postponing the main tax-filing deadline until May 17 from the usual April 15, and amid an unusually difficult filing season for the agency.

The deadline postponement was demanded by lawmakers in both parties, and Rettig made clear he did not like the idea. That’s partly because it would make it harder for the IRS to launch the new child tax credit program — which involves creating a special Web portal for beneficiaries — that is supposed to open for business on July 1, he said.

“The same people who do our income tax processing” and stimulus check processing “are the people who need to develop that portal, so I don’t have the resources to devote to that portal until filing season ends,” he said. “We now have one month less to do the development.”

“We intend to do our best to get there — I’m hopeful that I don’t have to come to the committee to say that we’re unable to meet the statutory requirement” to launch by July 1.

The agency may not be able to distribute the payments on a monthly basis “right out of the box,” he added, noting the legislation calls for “periodic” disbursements.

As part of Democrats’ coronavirus legislation, they greatly expanded the child tax credit, especially for low-income people, and ordered the Treasury Department to devise a way for people to claim a fraction of the break throughout the year.

Regarding unemployment benefits, Rettig said the agency is still working out the kinks but that it expects to announce that people who’ve already filed their tax returns this year won’t have to amend them in order to take a new tax break on the first $10,200 in benefits they receive.

“We believe that we will be able to handle this on our own — we believe that we will be able to automatically issue refunds associated with the $10,200,” he said.

Some lawmakers complained about the agency not extending the deadline for estimated taxes, noting they’re paid by gig workers, for example. Rettig was not interested.

“There’s a large contingent of wealthy individuals in this country who do not make their estimated payments,” he said. “We’re not going to give them a break on interest and penalties.”

The deadline extension is “an accommodation for the most vulnerable individuals — we only extended the 1040 for individuals,” he said.

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