As the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak continues, the Internal Revenue Service is taking multiple steps to protect America's taxpayers.  Although we are curtailing some operations during this period, the IRS is continuing with mission-critical functions to support the nation, and that includes accepting tax returns and sending refunds.

"As a federal agency vital to the overall operations of our country, we ask for your personal support, your understanding – and your patience," IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. "I'm incredibly proud of our employees as we navigate through numerous different challenges in this very rapidly changing environment. Working closely with our partners in the nation's tax community, we will do everything in our power to help."

The following is an overview of IRS operations and advice for taxpayers during this period. The IRS will continue to monitor issues related to the COVID-19 outbreak, and updated information will be posted on a special coronavirus page on IRS.gov.

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Tax Day is now July 15: Key Information for Taxpayers

The federal income tax filing due date has been automatically extended from April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020.

Taxpayers can also defer federal income tax payments due on April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020, without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed. This deferment applies to all taxpayers, including individuals, corporations and other non-corporate tax filers as well as those who pay self-employment tax. See news release IR-2020-58, Tax Day now July 15: Treasury, IRS extend filing deadline and federal tax payments regardless of amount.

Refund filers: File as soon you can

Refunds continue: If possible, don't wait until July 15 to file if you're owed a refund; file as soon as possible. Refunds will continue to be paid. For the quickest results, taxpayers should use e-file or Free File with direct deposit to help speed up refunds.

E-file recommended: To avoid delays, the IRS urges taxpayers to file electronically rather than on paper; using direct deposit is also critical to speed up refunds. Most taxpayers can file for free with www.IRS.gov/freefile. The IRS will continue to accept electronic and paper-filed returns for taxpayers who have and prefer to continue to file on paper. The IRS emphasizes that during this period paper returns could require additional time to process; filing electronically remains the best option for taxpayers.

July 15 extension automatic. Taxpayers do not need to file any additional forms or call the IRS to qualify for this automatic federal tax filing and payment relief. Individual taxpayers who need additional time to file beyond the July 15 deadline can request a filing extension by filing Form 4868 through their tax professional, tax software or using the Free File link on IRS.gov. Businesses who need additional time must file Form 7004.

Estimated Payments: The additional time also includes estimated tax payments for tax year 2020 that are due on April 15, 2020 if paid by July 15, 2020.

Extensions beyond July 15: The IRS reminds individual taxpayers the easiest and fastest way to request a filing extension is to electronically file Form 4868 through their tax professional, tax software or using the Free File link on IRS.gov. Businesses must file Form 7004.

Don't forget state tax returns; different deadlines may apply

The July 15, 2020 extension only applies to federal income tax returns and tax payments otherwise due April 15, 2020, not state tax payments or deposits or payments of any other type of federal tax. Taxpayers also will need to file income tax returns in 42 states plus the District of Columbia. State filing and payment deadlines vary and are not always the same as the federal filing deadline. The IRS urges taxpayers to check with their state tax agencies for those details. More information is available at https://www.taxadmin.org/state-tax-agencies.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act and other COVID-19 legislation

The IRS is taking immediate steps to implement COVID-19 legislation during this period. We will also be working closely with our partners in the tax community on this to assist with implementation. Additional information will be posted on the special coronavirus page.

Small and midsize businesses. Small and midsize employers can begin taking advantage of two new refundable payroll tax credits, designed to promptly and fully reimburse them, dollar-for-dollar, for the cost of providing Coronavirus-related leave to their employees (add link to news release)

Stimulus, payment checks: No information available yet

At this time, the IRS does not yet have any information regarding stimulus or payment checks, which remain under consideration in Congress. Please do not call the IRS about this. When the IRS has more specific details available, we will make it available on the special coronavirus page.

Non-filers: Haven't filed a tax return for a previous year? Take steps now.

The IRS encourages anyone with a tax filing obligation who hasn't filed a tax return for 2018 or a previous year to act now. – Pending legislation includes certain potential credits and rebates for those who have filed a return for 2018 and/or 2019. Those without 2018 tax filings on record could potentially affect mailings of stimulus checks. And more than 1 million people who haven't filed tax returns for Tax Year 2016 and are owed a refund still face an April 15, 2020, deadline to file their return. This deadline hasn't been extended. Current law requires the 2016 return to be filed by April 15, 2020.

Many non-filers should consider contacting a tax professional to consider various available options since the time to receive such refunds is limited by statute. Once delinquent returns have been filed, most taxpayers have the opportunity to resolve any outstanding liabilities by entering into an Installment Agreement or an Offer in Compromise with the IRS to obtain a "Fresh Start." See IRS.gov for further information.

IRS mission-critical operations continue; no face-to-face assistance

To protect employees and taxpayers, the IRS has scaled back our operations to focus on mission-critical activities for the nation. We continue to follow guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) as well as state and local officials to ensure the safety of IRS employees and the public we serve.

Many IRS offices in areas hardest hit by COVID-19 are closed or have reduced operations on mission-critical items. Telework-eligible employees across the IRS continue to work during this period.

The IRS emphasizes it is assessing its operations on a daily basis. The following is an overview of various operations of interest to taxpayers and tax professionals:

In-person assistance. The IRS has temporarily suspended almost all face-to-face contacts with taxpayers. All Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs) are closed and face-to-face service discontinued throughout the country until further notice. For taxpayers with TAC appointments, every effort to resolve the taxpayer's assistance needs by phone will be made.

Automated applications. IRS.gov and many automated applications remain available, including such things as Where's My Refund, the IRS2Go phone app and online payments and online payment agreements.

Telephones. Limited live telephone customer service assistance is currently available, but local office closings, limited call site staff and high demand means that there is extremely high call volume. Wait times will be lengthy. The IRS strongly urges people to use IRS.gov for information.

Practitioner Priority Service (PPS) – Practitioners are reminded that, depending on staffing levels going forward, there may be more significant wait times for the PPS. The IRS will continue to monitor this as situations develop.

Taxpayer appointments. During this period, all face-to-face appointments at an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center are cancelled. Taxpayers do not need to call to cancel their appointments.

Taxpayer correspondence. While able to receive mail, the IRS will be responding to paper correspondence only to a very limited degree during this period. Taxpayers who mail correspondence to the IRS during this period should expect to wait longer than usual for a response. Even after normal operations resume as it will take the IRS time to work through any correspondence backlog.

Other IRS operations

Compliance activity. The IRS is continuing to assess the impact of COVID-19 on a range of compliance activity across the agency.

Statute of limitations issues. The IRS will continue working cases where a statute of limitation is pending. In some of these situations, the IRS will work with the taxpayer or their representative to obtain an extension of the statute.

Office of Chief Counsel. The Office of Chief Counsel continues to work to resolve cases in litigation, including those on calendars in various cities through July 3, 2020, that were recently cancelled by the U.S. Tax Court. Counsel continues to work on cases in litigation generally and to support and advise the IRS operating divisions on their enforcement and examination activities. Although Counsel is not meeting with taxpayers or their representatives in face-to-face meetings, or taking depositions, taxpayers should know that our attorneys are available to discuss their cases by telephone.

Independent Office of Appeals. At this time, Appeals employees will continue to work their cases. Although Appeals is not currently holding in-person conferences with taxpayers, conferences may be held over the telephone or by videoconference. To the extent they can, taxpayers are encouraged to promptly respond to any outstanding requests for information for all cases in the Independent Office of Appeals.

Taxpayer Advocate Service. Currently, TAS remains open to receive phone calls at the local phone numbers but has suspended walk-in services in their offices and their toll-free centralized number is unavailable until further notice. Please visit taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov to locate your local office phone number.

Tax-exempt Sector Determinations, Rulings and Closing Agreements. The IRS continues to process applications for recognition of tax exemption for exempt organizations, rulings and determinations for employees plans and closing agreements for municipal issuers.