No tax day fanfare during coronavirus

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

April 15, the dreaded tax day for millions around the country came and went without much fanfare.

The Postal Service didn’t have extended hours with cars crawling around the facility – at least not in Tallahassee at the Adams Street location where the scene is an annual occurrence. The annual Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program that the United Way holds as a free service was suspended.

And, of course, several commercial tax preparers saw a drop off in traffic to meet the April 15 deadline.

Blame it on the coronavirus, which has jolted the country for the past two months. Its reach is so deep that the Internal Revenue Service pushed back the tax-filing deadline to July 15.

Additionally, the state Department of Revenue has also announced extension for filing some business taxes since most businesses in Florida has been affected by COVIC-19. Several are either shut or operating with shorter hours and reduced personnel. 

Despite the reprieve, sales tax had produced $26.2 billion annually, according to the Department of Revenue.

Individually, procrastinators seem to be relishing the extension and might even be attempting to get even more time.

Curtis Taylor, president of the Tallahassee Urban League, said plans are underway to assist individuals who need help with their 2018 taxes.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

“We expect it to pick up because we have people who have been calling for extensions anyway,” said Shaye Greelee, a tax accountant with the popular Community Business Services on West Brevard Street in Frenchtown.

Affects of the coronavirus weren’t that obvious until the IRS announced on March 21 that the filing deadline had been extended due to the COVID-19 outbreak. At the same time, the IRS reminded tax payers that unpaid taxes that aren’t filed by the new deadline will accrue interest and penalties.

However, the immediate concern seems to be more about the 2018 taxes that individuals might have missed filing. Those taxes suddenly have become important because they are a vital requirement for some people to benefit from a financial stimulus that the federal government is giving to stimulate the economy.

Greelee said she has found that most people who are attempting to file the late taxes are in the lower income bracket. Curtis Taylor, president of the Tallahassee branch of the Urban League, said he is seeing the same trend.

Taylor encouraged anyone who needs free assistance with filing their taxes to call the organization. It’s currently putting in place plans to set up in its offices at 923 Old Bainbridge Road to help people who want to cash in on the stimulus checks.

“We are going to be working with someone that will come in and assist those individuals to fill out their 2018 taxes,” Taylor said. “That would put them in a position where they would get a stimulus check directly into their checking account.”

Taylor dispelled reports that there is no second-chance to benefit from $2 trillion stimulus deal that the government approved in late March.

“It’s not ‘I didn’t file my 2018 taxes and I can’t get a stimulus check,” Taylor said. “No. That is not the case. If you haven’t filed you still need to file that 2018 so you still have a chance.”

Taylor also said the Urban League intends to invite the United Way of the Big Bend to bring back its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program to its Frenchtown headquarters. He said he hopes to have it back starting in January 2021.

Meanwhile, the United Way posted on its website that it has suspended the VITA program. The program, which has been held in neighborhood centers, libraries and schools, offers free tax help to individuals who make $66,000 or less. People with disabilities and those who are not fluent in English could also get free tax assistance.

While social distancing has disrupted face-to-face contact, the VITA program can be accessed on line at www.myfreetaxes.com. The service is being offered through a partnership with H&R Block and is limited to individuals who are filing a simple return.


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