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Economy & Business

As Wisconsin And US Tax Deadlines Near, COVID-19 Means Changes

Chuck Quirmbach
The IRS Form 1040 and 1040-SR, and Wisconsin Form One instruction booklets for this year.

The Wisconsin Department of Revenue estimates at least 200,000 Wisconsin residents haven't filed their state and federal income tax forms ahead of Wednesday night's deadline. This year's filing date was pushed back three months to July 15 due to COVID-19, and there are still some impacts of the coronavirus on the process.

Just like when taxes are due on April 15, the state believes the great majority of last-minute filers this summer are people who owe money. No sense in paying the IRS or the Wisconsin Department of Revenue until you have to do so. 

But this year, the state says it recognizes that COVID-19 has left some in a difficult financial situation, or even too ill to complete the tax forms. State Revenue Secretary Peter Barca urges people to at least file for an extension by Wednesday night, and meanwhile, contact his department. He says if you owe money, you will still face interest charges for late payments. But Barca says you can likely avoid penalties.

Credit Wisconsin Department of Revenue
Wisconsin Department of Revenue Secretary Peter Barca urges people to at least file for an extension by Wednesday night.

"The real issue is if they call and set up a payment arrangement, there will not be any penalties. That's why it's so important not to just let July 15 go by because you're stressed and don't have the resources to pay. We're going to make sure we're as sensitive as we can possibly be,” Barca told WUWM.

During a typical year, non-payment penalties can run into the hundreds or thousands of dollars. 

Barca says the state has also reduced its tax form audits during the last three months. 

Barca says COVID-19 has also affected his department, with about 85% of staffers still working from home. But he says extra precautions have been taken for employees logging in from a state computer or their personal one.

Credit Chuck Quirmbach
The IRS office in downtown Milwaukee is closed to the general public due to COVID-19, but it's open for those having an appointment.

"We have double verification to log into our system, and the most secure lines you can imagine. In fact, the IRS, I have to give them some credit on this. They have very strict protocols on access to IRS records. For us to be partners with them, they have certain standards we have to follow. We more than follow them,” Barca said.

Barca says dozens of state revenue employees are available for help between now and Wednesday night, and he contends callers will have difficulty knowing if the worker is in the office or at home. In-person appointments may yet be available.

The IRS says it is also offering taxpayer assistance online or by phone. But in-person help requires setting up an appointment due to COVID-19.

One thing COVID-19 has not changed: Barca says with about 90% of taxpayers now filing electronically, the last few days before the filing deadline is when cyber thieves are extra busy trying to come up with Social Security or credit card numbers. So, he says to take extra care with your data.  

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