ROCHELLE – Due to the current COVID-19 situation and the extension of both federal and state tax deadlines, local tax firms have made changes to help people file their taxes.
The original deadline to file taxes in the United States and the state of Illinois was April 15 but, due to the coronavirus and the current stay-at-home order, that deadline has been pushed to July 15.
The deadline change has not had a large impact on the amount of business local tax associates are seeing, but rather, it has forced them to make changes to the way they interact with their customers. Instead of meeting face-to-face with their clients, many tax associates have been utilizing technology to keep in touch.
“People use our drop boxes to drop off their paperwork and we call them to inform them that we got their stuff,” said Silene Walters, owner and president of Walters Accounting. “We try not to touch anything for a couple days to be extra safe. If they have any questions, we can do a video or a phone call and then send them back through priority mail or online with E-signatures.”
This is much different than the traditional way of having her clients come into the office, drop their taxes off and meet with Walters face-to-face. While completing taxes this way is quicker, easier and more efficient, Walters said she really misses the social interaction with her clients.
“My clients are friends that I see once a year,” Walters said. “So, it is really great to get catch up with them, see them and give them a hug. I have had people who were kids and now they are married, have kids of their own and I am doing their taxes now.”
While the amount of business that tax associates are experiencing has not been affected by the extensions, some tax associates are expecting an influx in customers once the stay-at-home order has expired. With the current order being extended until April 30 and the deadline not until July 15, they expect many people will wait to file their taxes.
“We do have a good portion of clients who are choosing to wait for all of this to calm down and we can go back to meeting face-to-face before they file their taxes,” said Katie Hart, owner of Advantage Tax. “I do project that this is going to affect our working hours and I am very fortunate that I have a great staff that is extremely accommodating and is willing to work all up until July 15, or after if we have too.”
For people who have already filed their 2019 taxes, associates are not expecting this to affect how quickly they receive their return. Both the federal and state governments are urging residents to go about filing their taxes as usual, getting them in as soon as possible.
Also, for people who usually do not file their taxes due to social security, extremely low income or any other reason, they are urged to file them this year in order to receive a stimulus check from the government. The only reason anybody is urged to hold off on filing their taxes, is if they made an income less than $150,000 in 2018 and over $150,000 in 2019, to ensure they receive a stimulus check.
“I have someone who made an income of $148,000 in 2018 and then over $150,000 in 2019,” said Walters. “So, I told them to just hold off for a little bit since the deadline isn’t until July 15 anyway.”
While there are many changes being made both in daily life and the way taxes are filed, one thing that accountants would like to stress is the importance of staying safe.
“I hope everybody stays safe and keeps their respective families safe,” said Hart. “This is a really strange time right now.”