The federal government last week gave taxpayers three additional months to file annual tax returns, but at the state level, taxpayers are still operating with an April 15 deadline amid mixed signals from Beacon Hill, where the timing of tax collections is a concern amidst falling receipts.
Five days after the Internal Revenue Service announced the federal filing deadline would be moved to July 15, Gov. Charlie Baker again declined to embrace or reject a similar plan for Massachusetts and repeated that talks are ongoing with lawmakers about the issue.
"We've been talking to our colleagues in the Legislature about this for several days," Baker said at a press conference Thursday afternoon. "It requires a legislative fix to be done, and I think one way or another, we'll figure something out here, but we don't have anything to say about it today."
On Thursday, Baker administration officials declined to say whether Baker could unilaterally move the state deadline or comment on the fiscal consequences for the state. But shifting large amount of collections out of fiscal 2020 and into fiscal 2021, compounding the revenue drop associated with the widespread shutdowns of economic activity, would have a big impact on balancing this year's budget with just three months remaining in the fiscal year.
After Baker's press conference, both the Pioneer Institute and the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance renewed their calls for a new deadline.
Massachusetts is an "anomaly," the institute wrote, as one of only seven states that tax income that has not postponed its filing deadline. Taxpayers should not be penalized, the institute said, for complying with virus containment strategies promoted by health officials and governments.
"The consequences for the state budget may be significant, but the impact of not providing tax relief consistent with federal actions may be more severe. The Internal Revenue Service extended the income tax return filing deadline from April 15 to July 15," the institute said. "Taxpayers already hit with declining paychecks and retirement accounts should not bear the additional interest and penalties stemming from an inability to meet the April 15 deadline."
In addition to citing dangers associated with physically delivering tax-filing documents to professional tax preparation companies, the institute noted that some items on the state's tax return form are drawn from the U.S. form, which helps make the case for piggybacking on the new federal deadline.
Paul Craney, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, said that state officials urging residents to stay home while also still requiring taxes to be filed by April 15 is "tone deaf."
"Anything the Governor can do to help people keep more of their money at this time should be pursued," Craney said in a statement. "By extending the deadline to mirror the Federal level, people will have more funds to pay for essential costs in these trying times. What's more, people won't be forced to leave their homes and risk infection to comply with the demands of a tone-deaf state government. This will end up saving the state money in the long term."
Amy Pitter, a former commissioner of the Department of Revenue and the president of Massachusetts Society of the Certified Public Accountants, said earlier this week that the state should push back the tax filing deadline immediately.
"The silence from Massachusetts has been deafening," Pitter told the News Service.
Tax accountants, like the rest of the workforce, are adjusting to a remote work life, which had made the processing of taxes less efficient. "The pressure on our members is intense. It's always intense this time of year, but I would say, and I can say it confidently, they can't get it done," Pitter said.