Why was the 2022 Tax Filing Deadline for California Extended on Deadline Day earlier this week? In January, the IRS extended the tax return filing deadline to October 16th due to flooding, mudslides and power outages caused by the unusually heavy precipitation last winter. Why did the IRS wait to announce the new deadline of November 16th until deadline day? What’s the point? Wouldn’t almost everyone still needing to file on Monday have done so, or be moments aways from doing so? Moreover, the IRS’ stated reason for another extension is still the winter weather – which ended a half year ago! Am I the only one who wants to know who’s still digging out from snow? C’mon, IRS! What’s REALLY going on here? This latest deadline IS NOT about generously giving Californians impacted by winter weather more time to file. It’s about CYA for the IRS.

2022 Tax Filing Deadline “Creep” for California

Last winter, during the epic snow and rains in California, the IRS announced that the tax filing deadline for Californians in all but three of its fifty-eight counties was extended from April 18th to May 16th. Many Californians experienced flooding, mudslides and extended power outages as a result of the historic precipitation. Then, in January, the IRS extended the filing deadline again, to October 16th, as the weather-related challenges continued. This Monday, the day of the deadline, the IRS announced a new, third deadline: November 16th. Once again, the IRS cited giving Californians time to recover from severe winter weather: “IRS [tax deadline] relief is based on three different FEMA disaster declarations covering severe winter storms, flooding, landslides, and mydlisdes over a period of several months” (here’s the IRS Press Release).

Extending the California Filing Deadline Was Because Of IRS Computer Problems

Here’s what really happened: IRS computers were unable to handle the volume of returns being processed over the weekend and on Monday, October 16. Several of my accountant buddies told me they were unable to process  returns: they’d click to submit a tax return on the IRS website and be met with a perpetually-rotating upload signal that would not stop, and did not acknowledge the tax return’s receipt.

The IRS has extended filing deadlines at the 11th hour in the past, also for same kinds of computer-related problems. Moreover, challenges arising from the IRS’s aging computer system are well-documented, including by the federal government’s own watchdog agency, the GAO. This is also why I am a strong supporter of the recent increased congressional funding of the IRS. The IRS must have functioning, modern technology to implement US tax laws – even the Wall Street Journal says so! I know it’s popular to dump on the IRS, and reasonable people certainly can and will disagree about how Congress spends our tax dollars, but there are some things we need to pay for collectively and we need a functioning revenue-collection system for assessing and collecting that tax revenue. I’m not here to rag on the IRS so much as I’m here to suggest you join me in supporting any efforts to enhance the IRS’ outdated technology. And I’m not just saying that because I used to work there. Despite my overall support of the IRS, I do have bone to pick with them.

Not Being Truthful About Reason For Extension Diminishes IRS Credibility

The IRS should have been up front about why it needed to extend the deadline. There’s no shame in letting U.S. taxpayers know how rickety its computer system is. Doing so may even enhance support for the increased funding the IRS has received.

One danger of not being truthful is that IRS credibility will continue to diminish. If deadlines are constantly extended multiple times, then why should taxpayers and tax preparers pay attention to them? This erosion in credibility and trust, in turn, negatively impacts public support for IRS and for the recently increased funding the IRS received for desperately needed technology upgrades and hiring. The IRS may have avoided an immediate problem by not admitting to why it needed to extend the filing deadline on Monday, but it’s only creating a bigger, long-term problem.

October 19, 2023

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