On January 7, 2019, the IRS confirmed that the 2019 tax filing season will begin on January 28, 2019. In other words, the 2019 tax filing season will begin on schedule despite the government shutdown.
2019 Tax Filing Season for 2018 Tax Returns and 2018 FBAR
During the 2019 tax filing season, US taxpayers must file their required 2018 federal income tax returns and 2018 information returns. Let me explain what I mean here.
One way to look at the US federal tax forms is to group them according to their tax collection purpose. The income tax returns are the tax forms used to calculate a taxpayer’s federal tax liability. The common example of this type of form is Form 1040 for individual taxpayers.
The information returns are a group of federal tax forms (and, separately, FBAR) which taxpayers use to disclose certain required information about their assets and activities. These forms are not immediately used to calculate a federal tax liability. A common example of this form is Form 8938. FinCEN Form 114, the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Account, commonly known as FBAR, also belongs to this category of information returns even though it is not a tax form.
There is a third group of returns that consists of hybrid forms – i.e. forms used for both, income tax calculation and information return, purposes. Form 8621 for PFICs has been a prominent example of this type of a form since tax year 2013.
2019 Tax Filing Season Deadline and Available Extensions for Individual Taxpayers
Individual US taxpayers must file their required income tax and information returns by Monday, April 15, 2019. An interesting exception exists for residents of Maine and Massachusetts. Due to the Patriots’ Day holiday on April 15 in these two states and the Emancipation Day holiday on April 16 in the District of Columbia, the residents of Maine and Massachusetts will have until April 17, 2019 to file their US tax returns.
Taxpayers who reside overseas get an automatic extension until June 17 , 2019, to file their US tax returns. The reason why the deadline is on June 17 is because June 15 falls on a Saturday. The taxpayers still must pay their estimated tax due by April 15, 2019.
Taxpayers can also apply for an automatic extension until October 15, 2019, to file their federal tax returns. Again, these taxpayers must still pay their estimated tax due by April 15, 2019, in order to avoid additional penalties.
Finally, certain taxpayers who reside overseas may ask the IRS for additional discretionary extension to file their 2018 federal tax return by December 16 (because December 15 is a Sunday this year), 2019. These taxpayers should send their request for the discretionary extension before their automatic extension runs out on October 15, 2019.
2019 Tax Filing Season Refunds
In light of the ongoing government shutdown, one of the chief concerns for US taxpayers is whether they will be able to get their tax refunds during the 2019 Tax Filing Season. The IRS assured everyone that it has the power to issue refunds during the government shutdown.
The IRS has been consistent in its position that, under the 31 U.S.C. 1324, the US Congress provided a permanent and indefinite appropriation for refunds. In 2011, the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) disagreed with the IRS and ordered it not to pay any refunds. It appears, however, that the OMB changed its position sometime after 2011.