Electronic tax

The state might want to give filers slack

Filing your Illinois taxes online is generally a good way to go. It’s pretty easy, it’s quick, and – if you use the Department of Revenue’s “MyTax Illinois” program – it’s free.

But there is currently a small bug in the system that could cause new filers at MyTax Illinois to file late. And it is up to the Ministry of Revenue to make an effort to find a remedy.

Until this year, taxpayers could file Form IL-1040 on MyTax Illinois without creating their own account. Registration is mandatory this year, and for good reason: IDOR spokesperson Maura Kownacki says the department recently uncovered fraudulently filed Illinois tax returns that weren’t the result of a violation within the ministry.

Creating an account is a practical solution to the problem of a few fraudulent returns, without unnecessarily burdening the system for others. It is not difficult to create an account. But to use the account, the applicant must first receive an “identification letter” from IDOR, and this can take up to 10 days.

Kownacki told our Mick Zawislak that people who have used MyTax Illinois in the past have been alerted to the change via email and a reminder has just been sent. A message is also posted on the ministry’s homepage.

The potential problem therefore does not affect most regular users. It’s with people deciding to file electronically for the first time this year. If they procrastinate — or hold on to their money until the last possible minute — they won’t have eight to 10 days to wait for their ID to arrive before their return is late. In Illinois, late payments of less than 31 days are penalized 2% of the amount owed; payments made after 31 days or more are penalized by 10%.

Last year, Illinois received about 5.3 million returns, or 87.5%, electronically, Kownacki said. Most come from tax preparers or taxpayers using off-the-shelf software. Approximately 180,000 taxpayers use MyTax Illinois.

Is there a solution to prevent unwitting taxpayers from being penalized?

Well, working on your taxes early is always a good idea. But we wonder if IDOR couldn’t do a little more to publicize the lag, suggesting taxpayers get their taxes earlier or reminding them that they can request an extension.

And maybe there’s more: Could IDOR extend the deadline for new electronic filers on MyTax Illinois who make a good faith effort to meet the deadline? Or give up the sentence for these people? Or at least send them a form to request an extension?

Getting taxpayers to register is a good idea, and if it takes 8-10 days to return the corresponding ID, so be it. All we ask is a little consideration for someone who, despite IDOR’s attempts to reach everyone, remains in the dark until it’s too late.