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State joins Feds in extending tax deadline to July 15

The State Capital building in Albany is seen

The State Capital building in Albany is seen on Jan 14. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Friday moved the deadline to file state income tax returns to July 15 from April 15, matching the move by the federal government and aimed at easing the financial crunch amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“This act takes the burden off all taxpayers who are struggling to meet their current tax filing and payment obligations amid everything else that’s going on around us,” said Cindy Hockenberry, director of tax research and government relations at the National Association of Tax Professionals, based in Wisconsin.

“We all hope and pray that over the next three months this pandemic will ease and life will return to normal,” Hockenberry said. “If taxpayers need more time to file, we encourage them to file for an automatic extension using Form 4868. Keep in mind, however, that tax payments are currently due July 15, 2020 even with a valid extension.”

The delay further tightens the bind in which the state finds itself because revenues have already been dramatically reduced due to the impact of the virus on the stock market and business and payroll taxes.

“When you move the filing deadline, it means you won’t get any money between April and July,” Cuomo said. “That could be $7 billion to $8 billion. The only way I get to sleep at night is because it’s every state … it’s going to have to be a situation this nation addresses and this state addresses, and we will. But today, one crisis at a time … I won’t put a price on a human life.”

The federal government earlier said the postponement could leave $300 billion in the hands of taxpayers during the delay and bolster the fractured economy.

“All taxpayers and businesses will have this additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties,” tweeted Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

But some taxpayers may not want to wait.

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“I would advise those to please don’t look at this as a license to postpone the inevitable drudgery of pulling documents together,” said Donald Williamson, professor of accounting and taxation in the Kogod School of Business at American University in Washington, D.C. "Here is an opportunity to figure out now if you have to pay or get money back, and 90 days to figure out how to pay it.”

He said a little more than half of the nation’s more than 150 million federal tax returns have already been filed, but the orders to postpone the deadlines come during the annual deluge of last-minute filing. The state handles 11 million tax returns a year, the bulk of them in late March and early April.

Williamson said, however, that the magnitude of the economic losses of the coronavirus to governments will ultimately be far worse than the delayed receipt of billions of tax dollars. But the action will please many taxpayers, at least temporarily.

“Some political decision was made, but this has very little to do with the economy, Williamson said.

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