Illinois should move state tax filing deadline to July 15 so it matches the feds’

With the coronavirus outbreak wreaking havoc, the state deadline should be the same as the federal government’s, which was moved back 90 days.

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Medical personnel help each other suit up Sunday at a COVID-19 drive-thru testing site in the parking lot of a Walmart in Northlake. The federal government has pushed back tax-filing day as a result of the pandemic.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

At a time when almost everything in our daily lives has become unexpectedly complicated, Illinois should not keep its income tax deadline set at April 15 now that the federal government has moved back its deadline by 90 days.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Friday that the federal government will move the tax deadline to July 15 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That puts the ball in Illinois’ court to find a way to do the same.

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We urge the state to move quickly to resolve this. It’s clearly doable.

Arizona, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have already changed their deadlines to conform with the federal date. Even before the federal government acted, Maryland had moved its deadline for some business filings to June 1, and California had bumped its tax day back to June 15.

On Sunday, Pritzker said his administration is “working hard to figure out how” to push back the filing date but also needs to figure out how to deal with the changes in its cash flow. Other states, he pointed out, are in the same fix.

We get that the sudden loss of the usual influx of cash in April can leave the state scratching its head about how to pay its bills, including the paychecks for state workers.

But we hope the Pritzker administration is also fully taking into account that no matter what the state decides, the distinction between federal and state filing dates will be lost on many tax filers. To them, tax day is tax day, whether it comes on April 15 or July 15. What’s more, people generally have to calculate their federal taxes before they file with the state, so if they put off wrestling with the IRS’ Form 1040, they will rack up painful and unnecessary late fees.

If Illinois is anything like Wisconsin, about half of all state taxpayers have already filed their returns, so the state won’t lose all of its revenue even if it moves the deadline. Illinois also needs to waive any penalties and interest on 2019 personal income tax payments as part of moving tax day to July 15, just as the feds have done.

Pritzker was right when he said, “We think that’s an important thing for us to evaluate and then do something about.”

But because April 15 is less a month away, the governor also needs to remember it’s important to do something sooner rather than later.

Illinoisans are going through enough. They don’t need another complication in their lives.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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