5 ways pets can pay off on your tax return
IRA and HSA contribution deadline also is July 15

COVID-19 forces closure of many IRS, other tax operations

Closed sign

Retailers aren't the only ones closing their doors to customers during the coronavirus crisis. So is the Internal Revenue Service and other tax-related operations.

As cases of COVID-19 increased, the IRS has acted to protect not only taxpayers but its employees. The goal is the new global mantra — to flatten the curve of the potentially deadly virus' transmission.

IRS in-person actions curtailed: "We're taking several immediate steps to protect employees while still delivering on the mission-critical functions," said IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, in a message to his staff that also is posted on the tax agency's website.

These virus-affected tax office efforts include:

  • Ending walk-in and in-person appointments with taxpayers at IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs). This will protect both taxpayers and IRS employees.
  • Employees who are telework eligible have been instructed to do their jobs from home. IRS personnel who are not telework eligible will, where appropriate, be placed on Weather and Safety leave.
  • For mission-critical operations that require people to physically be at an IRS campus or work setting, the agency has reduced staffing by approximately 50 percent to enhance physical distancing, which is now the new turn of phrase for the practice of leaving three- to six-feet of space between people.

In addition, a number of IRS offices and facilities in high-impact areas are closed, said Rettig. The IRS is working with federal, state and local authorities and will determine when local conditions might allow the resumption of at least some services in these areas.

Taxpayer Advocate Service mostly closed, too: Just like at the IRS, Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) walk-in services also have also ended. However, you can still reach TAS by phone.

Taxpayer Advocate Service online COVID19 announcement

If you have an open TAS case and need assistance, reach out to your assigned Case Advocate by phone. If you are having a tax problem and have not been able to resolve it directly with the IRS, you can call your local taxpayer advocate.

In-person filing assistance on hold: Also hard hit by the coronavirus are the community programs that help low- and moderate-income and older taxpayers prepare and e-file their tax returns.

Thousands of taxpayers nationwide every year depend on Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) locations to help them fulfill their annual tax obligations.

Many of these tax assistance programs also have been felled by COVID-19. According to an announcement on IRS.gov, "Due to COVID-19, a number of VITA sites and all TCE sites are closed for an undetermined period of time."

VITA TCE online COVID19 announcement

"A top priority for us is ensuring we are protecting those most at risk, including our volunteers and taxpayers," noted AARP Foundation's Tax Aide program, which operates TCE sites, in a statement on its website. Older individuals appear to more susceptible to the virus and have worse symptoms and mortality rate than younger people.

"Therefore, we have suspended AARP Foundation Tax-Aide services until further notice," AARP said.

Since COVID-19 developments change hour by hour, AARP Foundation added that it will "continue to assess whether we can open again in some or all Tax-Aide sites now that the tax filing deadline has been postponed to July 15, 2020."

To find out about which sites might be open and when, check the IRS' online page dedicated to info on VITA and TCE. In addition, you can get the latest TCE updates by calling the Tax-Aide toll-free at (888) 227-7669.

Reset your priorities: The two things to keep in mind during this extraordinary tax season are safety and patience.

Your taxes don't matter one whit if you or someone you love is sick. Nothing puts your priorities into perspective and proper order like an illness, especially one that's new, potentially deadly and still spreading. 

Be mindful. Be careful. Be smart.

Take care of yourself and your family and friends first. You've got plenty of time to work on your taxes. In case you missed the news, Tax Day 2020 has been moved to July 15.

Then, once things have calmed down and/or the coronavirus curve has been sufficiently flattened in your area, you can work on your taxes. Trust me, your taxes will always be there and they can wait.

Tax Form Tuesday: This day of the week is supposed to be the one where I highlight a tax form or document. However, the coronavirus crisis has thrown many tax things, including the ol' blog, for a loop.

I beg your indulgence as, instead of featuring one form, I point y'all to the tax forms and instructions section of IRS.gov, since this is the best way even without COVID-19 limitations to get the forms you need.

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