The U.S. Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service announced March 21 that the federal income tax filing due date has been extended to July 15.
According to irs.gov, taxpayers may also defer federal income tax payments that are due to July 15 without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed. This deferment applies to all taxpayers, including individuals, trusts and estates, corporations and other non-corporate tax filers as well as those who pay self-employment tax.
No additional forms need to be filed to qualify for the extension. However, individual taxpayers who need additional time to file beyond the new deadline can request a filing extension by filing Form 4868. Businesses who need additional time must file Form 7004.
Taxpayers who are due a refund are encouraged to file as soon as possible. Most tax refunds are still being issued within 21 days.
The Fort Leonard Wood Legal Assistance Office and Tax Center both continue to provide service during the current health concern, with some limitations.
According to Gary Chura, Fort Leonard Wood Office of the Staff Judge Advocate chief of client services, legal assistance attorney consultations are now only available by appointment – some may be conducted over the phone. The office is still open for powers of attorney and notarizations from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday (except for Thursdays, when availability is limited to 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.). Anyone with questions, or who wishes to schedule an appointment, should call 573.596.0629.
Chura said the Tax Center is open through April for drop off and pick up only. Customers can drop off their necessary documents and then will be contacted to set up a time to come in and sign, e-file and pick up a copy of their return. The Tax Center can be reached at 573.596.1040.
To provide additional assistance to taxpayers, the IRS has built a web page for updates related to the COVID-19 situation at www.irs.gov/coronavirus.
“Although we are curtailing some operations during this period, the IRS is continuing with mission-critical operations to support the nation, and that includes accepting tax returns and sending refunds,” said IRS commissioner Chuck Rettig. “As a federal agency vital to the overall operations of our country, we ask for your personal support, your understanding – and your patience.”
A Q&A on common COVID-19 legal issues
Gary Chura, Fort Leonard Wood Office of the Staff Judge Advocate chief of client services, provided some of the common questions that have recently been brought to the Fort Leonard Wood Legal Assistance Office, and some of the basic guidance as to how they’ve been answered by the legal team.
Q: I am under a stop movement order and cannot change stations, but I already gave my landlord notice to terminate my lease. How do I extend or deal with my lease here?
A: The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act does not require a landlord to re-lease premises to service members and their dependents following a valid termination. We advise clients with PCS orders not to terminate current leases until the Army lifts the stop-PCS-movement order. For clients who have already requested termination, contact landlords immediately to see if the landlords will agree voluntarily to a lease extension or a temporary lease.
Q: If I have to move temporarily, then move again, can I get reimbursement for that?
A: Soldiers and their families who have terminated their leases, but cannot PCS under the stop-PCS-movement order, may need to execute two moves: one from the terminated residence, and then again when their PCS orders are re-issued. Chapter 5 of the Joint Travel Regulation authorizes a short-distance move when vacating local private-sector housing due to involuntary tour extension. A short-distance household goods move is authorized when the tour of duty at a permanent duty station is extended and the move is required for reasons beyond the service member’s control. For further information about the availability of entitlements to assist with a move, contact the transportation office.
Q: I already signed a lease at my new duty station – can I put that lease on hold or terminate it?
A: For clients who have entered into a lease at their new duty location, and who wish to retain the lease and move into the premises once the stop-PCS-movement order has been lifted, we suggest prompt and open communication with the new landlord. There is no legal obligation to abate rent until you get there, but we have drafted and can help tailor a letter that asks the landlord to agree to forego lease payments until the servicemember can occupy the premises. Please note: rent abatement is not required by law or policy. This is simply you or your Legal Assistance attorney asking nicely if a landlord will make an accommodation based on these circumstances. In the current environment, we have seen some landlords cooperate with abatement requests.
Q: I requested and was granted leave. I planned to travel and had purchased airline tickets. My leave was canceled. Can my commander do that?
A: Yes, leave may be granted or denied based on the constraints of operational military requirements.
Q: Even if I’ve bought plane tickets?
Q: Will the military reimburse me for the price of the ticket?
A: No. Army Regulation 27-20, paragraph 11-5b, states that the Personnel Claims Act authorizes payment for damage to tangible personal property only. Para 11-6c states that “a claimant may not be compensated for the inability to use nonrefundable tickets.”
Q: I understand the military can’t reimburse me, but I bought travel insurance, will that help?
A: It might. While most travel insurances don’t allow you to cancel to prevent getting sick, some allow you to cancel for reasons associated with military service. Check the terms of the insurance you purchased, some policies allow for reimbursement for any change in military orders. However, many policies are specific about what they require – such as deployment orders.
Q: I checked my travel insurance and it doesn’t cover my situation (or I don’t have travel insurance). Is there anything else I can do?
A: Maybe. If you bought your ticket with a credit card, your credit card company may have a reimbursement program. Check the terms and conditions with your company. Alternatively, you can call the airline directly and simply ask to cancel and receive a refund. If they won’t grant a refund, many companies are waiving fees associated with moving your travel dates, which means you can rebook your trip for a later date without a fee. These policies can change quickly, so contact the company directly for more information.
Q: Can I still get my taxes done at the Tax Center?
A: Yes, the Tax Center is still open, but for drop off and pick up only. Customers can drop off their necessary documents and then will be contacted to set up a time to come in and sign, e-file and pick up a copy of their return.
Q: What do I need to bring to drop off the necessary information for my return?
A: (1) military identification; (2) last year’s tax return; (3) Social Security cards for yourself and any dependents being claimed; (4) all W-2’s and any proof of any other earned or unearned income; (5) interest statements; (6) proof of health insurance; (7) a voided check or bank routing and account numbers; (8) a power of attorney (if necessary to complete a return with an absent spouse); (9) a completed client intake form (provided by the tax center); and (10) any other related documents needed to justify itemized deductions.
Q: I heard the deadline to file my return is now extended until July 15. Do I need to ask for an extension?
A: No. The deadline is automatically extended. You only need to request an extension if you need to file after July 15, and in that case can ask for an extension until October. You can pick up an extension request form at the Tax Center. If you expect a refund, you are encouraged to file as early as you can.
Q: Since the deadline is extended, will the Tax Center remain open until July 15?
A: No. The Tax Center will close as scheduled on April 15.
Family Law and Divorce
Q: I filed for divorce and the court delayed my hearing. What do I do?
A: We have seen that the courts locally and nationwide are, in some cases, operating more slowly than normal, and many court dates are delayed. If you are PCSing and will miss a date you should ensure that that the court is aware either through your attorney or by calling yourself. If you don’t have an attorney and need help reaching a court official, make an appointment to see a legal assistance attorney.
USERRA and my job
Q: I am a Reservist completing advanced individual training and intended to return to my job. I gave notice under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, but now my employer has informed me that I no longer have a job because the restaurant is closed indefinitely. Can they do that? What do I do?
A: The USERRA generally protects the employment of Reservists and Guardsmen who give proper notice of intent to return to their jobs. But there are exceptions. An employer is not required to re-employ a person if the employer’s circumstances have so changed as to make such re-employment impossible or unreasonable, or it is an undue hardship on the employer. The closing of the business is likely to qualify.
Q: Because of this I am going to have trouble with my rent when I get home.
A: Other forms of assistance may be available through government relief efforts implemented in response to the current pandemic, such as unemployment compensation, rental or mortgage abatement, or enhanced foreclosure protections. You should discuss the circumstances with a legal assistance attorney by calling 573.596.0629.