Bennet, Portman Introduce Legislation to Extend Tax Filing Deadlines During Natural Disasters, National Emergencies

Senators Applaud Legislation’s Inclusion in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) introduced the Automatic Relief for Taxpayers Affected by Major Disasters and Critical Events Act, which is included in the major bipartisan infrastructure package, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021. This legislation will amend the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) to permit the Secretary of the Treasury to extend the tax filing deadline for all taxpayers affected by federally declared disasters, national emergencies, and terrorist or military action. It tolls the deadline for filing a petition in Tax Court if that court is inaccessible or closed, such as during a government shutdown or pandemic. 

“From wildfires, to floods, to the global pandemic, Coloradans have experienced extreme hardship over the past year,” said Bennet. “When a natural disaster or a national emergency affects every aspect of life and impedes the ability to carry out everyday tasks, taxpayers should not also be expected to file their taxes on time. Through the Automatic Relief for Taxpayers Affected by Major Disasters and Critical Events Act, we can help give taxpayers this assurance, and I look forward to passing it as a part of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.”

“The last thing victims of natural disasters and emergencies need is to worry about the IRS,” said Portman. “This amendment will give folks peace of mind and bring fairness to the tax code by providing certainty that tax deadlines will be extended in the case of natural disasters and other hardships. This is the least we can do for people who fall victim to tragic circumstances through no fault of their own.”

Specific adjustments to the IRC include fixing section 7508A(d), implemented in 2019, to ensure that the mandatory minimum extension period of 60 days is automatic. Under current law, the IRS does not interpret the period to be automatic. The second provision allows all petitions filed in the Tax Court and appeals from those petitions – not just deficiency petitions – to be extended. The last provision provides a tolling period for when the Tax Court is closed, due to events such as federal government shutdowns, inclement weather, or a pandemic, allowing taxpayers an additional 14 days to file after the Tax Court reopens from these periods of inaccessibility.

During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) shelter-in-place orders in the spring of 2020, many Internal Revenue Service (IRS) local offices ceased operations, leaving taxpayers unable to access assistance and struggling to meet the tax filing deadline. While the IRS eventually postponed the deadline for filing individual income tax returns, and ultimately extended similar relief to all taxpayers, the Automatic Relief for Taxpayers Affected by Major Disasters and Critical Events Act would have helped automate many of these processes and given taxpayers immediate assurance during the pandemic. 

The bill text is available HERE.