This year’s July 15 tax filing deadline is later than usual, and local experts say the added time to file has led to even greater procrastination than usual among taxpayers.
Donna Hollingsworth, a senior tax preparer at the Jackson Hewitt location on Dawsonville Highway, said the mad rush to the tax office she and her colleagues typically see as the filing deadline approaches has been even crazier than usual.
“We have seen a lot of people basically have almost forgotten about their taxes,” she said. “It seems like we’re getting a sudden rush at the last minute. We always have that, but it seems to be a little bit more intensive this year. I think people were just trying to put taxes out of mind for a little while.”
Part of the hesitancy to get into the tax office and get returns done can be attributed to the fear of COVID-19 infection, as Hollingsworth reports many of her regular clients have been “very concerned” about the virus.
Fortunately for local residents, tax offices around the area are offering a variety of options that do not involve meeting in close quarters with a tax professional.
According to Tammy Walker, senior tax analyst at the H&R Block location on Thompson Bridge Road, H&R Block has been recommending its drop-off option for those worried about meeting in person.
“They come in, they fill out a drop-off sheet with pertinent information, and then they leave their documents,” Walker said. “The average time for a tax return is about an hour. They have the option to go run errands and come back, pick up their paperwork. They’re good to go.”
She added that people can leave their documents at the tax office overnight and pick them up the following morning. Hollingsworth said Jackson Hewitt is also offering the drop-off option.
Walker also said H&R Block was even offering meetings outside of regular office hours for high-risk individuals who really wanted to have a face-to-face conversation with a tax professional.
“They can come into the office and nobody else will be there but their one tax rep,” she said.
And while COVID-19 and an extended deadline have made this year’s tax season far from normal, Walker and Hollingsworth both said it’s been a fairly usual year in terms of what they’ve seen on returns.
Next year, according to Walker, is likely to be a completely different story.
With many people filing for unemployment this year, she said it was important that those who have been laid off from their jobs get on top of their tax situations starting now so they can avoid a nasty surprise next April. Unemployment income is not tax-free, and those who do not make voluntary withholdings could end up owing money to the government.
“Did they hold out enough tax on that unemployment?” she said. “Did they hold out tax at all on that unemployment? Are they going to be in for a big shock when they have a really small refund, or if they owe at the end of the year when it’s time to do their taxes next year? Now would be a good time for that midseason checkup.”
Hollingsworth also recommended that any individuals who have filed for unemployment and are not well versed in tax policies seek help from a professional.
“We can tell them approximately how much they will be owing in, and they can make quarterly payments on that instead of being hit at the end if the year with that big tax payment,” she said.
As for this year, Walker said the most important thing is that people not ignore the July 15 deadline to file.
Whether they are expecting a refund or to owe money, she said it is essential that the new deadline is followed just as strictly as the usual April 15 date is.
“People are pushing the envelope to July 15, but they need to file something,” Walker said. “They need to either file their return, because there are still a lot of people out there that are going to get refunds. But if you do owe, you can still file that return or file an extension, and then we can work with the IRS to do a payment plan.”