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Tax-Assistance Groups Worry About Low-Income Filers Amid New Deadline

Tax experts say people who rush to file their taxes at the last minute run the risk of making a mistake and having their return rejected. (Adobe Stock)
Tax experts say people who rush to file their taxes at the last minute run the risk of making a mistake and having their return rejected. (Adobe Stock)
July 7, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS -- Taxpayers across the country got a reprieve earlier this year when the federal government and many states extended the tax-filing deadline because of the pandemic. But the new deadline is bearing down, and a Minnesota nonprofit worries about low-income filers.

The Twin Cities-area group Prepare + Prosper provides in-person assistance for low- to moderate-income residents who need guidance in preparing their returns. But Stacy Opitz, the group's external relations director, said the pandemic forced them to shift to a largely digital and phone presence, and she said they know they're not reaching everyone as they normally do.

"From what we can tell, people are filing on their own, people are turning to friends and family for help, people are turning to paid preparers," Opitz said.

She said they worry people going that route won't be getting the same level of expertise as they would from volunteers who are trained in guiding residents with limited means and knowledge of the process.

Opitz stressed that for people who owe money this year, they can still request an extension ahead of the new deadline of July 15. However, they're still urged to pay what they think they will owe before the 15th to avoid any penalties. Those who stand to get a refund can wait up to three years to file.

But she said people affected by the economic aspect of the crisis might not be in a position to wait.

"Insecurity is definitely present in their lives with changes in jobs, with changes in income," she said.

Opitz said their large staff of volunteers also has been helpful in explaining the many changes to the tax code in recent years. She said that's another benefit some of these filers could be missing out on.

In Washington, D.C., there were arguments for adding another extension, but IRS officials said it would have created too much confusion.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - MN