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File taxes ASAP to avoid backlog, disruption in benefits: tax professionals

HUMBOLDT, MELFORT — COVID-19 has left some changes in its wake, and those changes aren’t going to go anywhere, according to local tax professionals.
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HUMBOLDT, MELFORT — COVID-19 has left some changes in its wake, and those changes aren’t going to go anywhere, according to local tax professionals.

Michael Behiel of Behiel Tax and Accounting in Humboldt and Dwayne Usselman of Bulmer and Usselman in Melfort are both dealing with a unique tax season as the deadline for filing income has been extended to June 1.

Behiel said his office is around 35 per cent behind last year’s numbers of tax returns filed by this time. He is hoping and expecting May to be busy with people rushing to get their returns done.

The later people wait to file their tax returns, he said, the bigger backlog there will be in the system later. There will also be delays in people receiving their benefits.

“Especially the families that rely on benefits to help supplement their family income, they need to get those filed ASAP so they’re not going to see a massive disruption. The government is definitely running behind on a lot of stuff.”

People are entitled to these benefits, Usselman said, and the quicker they file their taxes the quicker these benefits will continue.

While people have extended deadlines, most should be at home with little going on, making it a perfect time to get your tax documents together, Behiel said.

Accountant offices, especially at this time of year, are deemed an essential service, Usselman said, so everyone should feel free to book appointments and get their taxes taken care of. Usselman encourages everyone to just make a phone call to see what their accountants are doing differently during COVID-19.

COVID-19 has also changed the way accountants do business, Behiel said, and that could mean more online and digital communication in the future, as well as more unpredictability about office hours. Opening his doors, Behiel never knows if he is going to see two people to 50 people waiting for his expertise, he said.

All this does put added stress on accounting firms, Usselman said, and by the end of May, they’re going to be pretty tired.

“We’ve been pushing hard since Jan. 1 and by April 30, we’re starting to get tired as well so we’re looking to have to extend staff and hours into May to get these things done.”

While the 2019 tax season will see average returns, Behiel said people need to prepare for a bleak year coming when people go to file their 2020 tax returns.

“People’s incomes are going to be down massively and I’m sure we’re going to recover for a year or two.”

Government programs are a “moving target,” Usselman said, so in the coming years there could be even more for people to deal with when filing their future returns.

“All these programs are taxable, so people are going to have to start setting aside some money to face an unexpected tax bill this time next year.”

The deadline to file tax returns is June 1 with the deadline to pay any amounts owing is Sept. 1.