2020 Filing Deadline for Calendar Year Partnerships

As part of its response to COVID, the IRS issued a series of notices, culminating with IRS Notice 2020-23, 2020-18 IRB (April 9, 2020), which generally extended the deadline to file tax returns and pay taxes to July 15, 2020. Pursuant to the Notice, any person with "a Federal tax return or other form filing obligation specified in this section III.A..., which is due to be performed (originally or pursuant to a valid extension) on or after April 1, 2020, and before July 15, 2020, is affected by the COVID-19 emergency for purposes of the relief described" in that section. Such "affected taxpayers" are entitled to the relief of the extended deadline.

The notice goes on to specify that the "filing obligations specified in this section III.A" include "[c]alendar year... partnership return filings on Form 1065, U.S. Return of Partnership Income...," which absent the Notice would normally be due on March 16, 2020. According, the Notice creates an ambiguity: Is the due date for calendar year partnership returns extended to July 15 because "calendar year partnership return filings" are specifically included on the list of specified federal form filing obligations entitled to relief, or does the due date for such returns remain at March 16 because they are not due on or after April 1, 2020? This ambiguity was noted shortly after the Notice was issued.

Unofficially resolving this ambiguity, the IRS website currently states, "Notice 2020-23 does not postpone any return filings that were due on March 16, 2020. If a fiscal year partnership or S-corporation has a return due to be filed on or after April 1, 2020, and before July 15, 2020, that filing requirement has been postponed to July 15, 2020." The website does not specifically mention "calendar year partnerships" like the Notice does.

As a practical matter, most partnership tax returns would have had extensions filed before March 16, 2020 anyway because the IRS guidance wasn't issued until after that due date. However, if an extension was not filed for your partnership's return, there is a good argument that binding guidance from the IRS granted an automatic extension to July 15, 2020.