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Coronavirus Throws Curveball at 2020 Tax Season

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The deadline to file 2019 federal income tax returns has been moved from April 15 to July 15. (Adobe Stock)
The deadline to file 2019 federal income tax returns has been moved from April 15 to July 15. (Adobe Stock)
March 26, 2020

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- The COVID-19 virus has not only delayed the 2020 tax season, but also has put the brakes on free tax preparation assistance from the nation's largest volunteer-based service.

The AARP Foundation's Tax-Aide sites in Arkansas and other states are closed until further notice, to help flatten the curve of new coronavirus transmission.

Arkansas Tax-Aide Coordinator Deborah Brown says that, while it's a necessary step to protect the health of volunteers and clients, it's also going to affect the lives of many taxpayers.

"It costs $100-plus to go and get a simple tax return prepared, and there's many people across Arkansas and the country, quite frankly, that can't afford that," she explains. "So, it does have a financial impact in all of our communities."

Volunteers at Arkansas' 19 Tax-Aide sites prepared more than 11,000 income tax returns last year. The filing deadline for 2019 federal returns was extended to July 15, and Brown says Tax-Aide will continue to assess whether some or all sites could re-open.

Brown explains the security of client information is a top priority, so Tax-Aide volunteers are not able to meet one-on-one with filers while the program is suspended.

"My personal hope is that we, a few months from now, will be able to at least open for a couple weeks to finish some returns that were suspended," she states. "We were midway through them, they were missing a document or two, we sent them away -- and we literally cannot do anything."

Brown notes that people who still need more time can file for an extension, which would push the due date for their returns to Oct. 15.

"The problem that we're going to have is, we're not going to have a tax site open on Oct. 15th, because from a national standpoint, our training starts the first week of October," she says. "So, those people are kind of caught between a rock and a hard place."

Taxpayers who have questions about filing and finding assistance can look online at the IRS website, irs.gov/freefile.

Disclosure: AARP Arkansas contributes to our fund for reporting on Consumer Issues, Health Issues, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - AR