The IRS has provided relief that permits taxpayers affected by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) emergency who had a return filing due date postponed by Notice 2020-23, I.R.B. 2020-18, 742, or Notice 2021-21, I.R.B. 2021-15, 986, who did not receive an extension of time for filing such return, and who file timely credit or refund claims, to be credited or refunded amounts deemed paid on April 15 of each year.

Among other things, Notice 2020-23 postponed certain federal tax return filing and payment obligations that were due to be performed on or after April 1, 2020, and before July 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020. Notice 2021-21 postponed the due date for both filing Form 1040 series returns with an original due date of April 15, 2021, and making federal income tax payments in connection with one of these forms, to May 17, 2021.

Under Code Sec. 6511, a taxpayer must file a refund or credit claim within three years from the time the taxpayer’s return was filed, or two years from the time the tax was paid, whichever period expires later. Under Code Sec. 6511(b)(2), the credit or refund amount is limited to the amount of tax paid within a specified period immediately preceding the filing of the refund or credit claim (the “lookback period“). When a taxpayer files a claim within three years of filing the return, the lookback period is three years plus the period of any extension of time for filing the return. Otherwise, the lookback period is two years.

While Notice 2020-23 and Notice 2021-21 postponed certain return filing due dates, they did not extend the time for filing the returns because a postponement is not an extension. As a result, the postponements did not lengthen the lookback periods.

Relief for Determining Lookback Period

The relief applies for determining the credit or refund amount on the tax for which the return filing or payment due date was postponed:

  • For any person with a federal tax return filing or payment obligation that was postponed by Notice 2020-23 to July 15, 2020, the period beginning on April 15, 2020, and ending on July 15, 2020, will be disregarded in determining the beginning of the lookback period.
  • For any person with a filing or payment obligation for a Form 1040 series federal income tax return that was postponed by Notice 2021-21 to May 17, 2021, the period beginning on April 15, 2021, and ending on May 17, 2021, will be disregarded in determining the beginning of the lookback period.

The relief is automatic, so affected taxpayers do not have to call the IRS, file any form, or send letters or other documents to receive the relief.