The state’s online tax filing portal was overwhelmed on Monday, amid a rush of business owners trying to file their sales tax returns before the end of the April 20 deadline – after many were left uncertain on whether the COVID-19 outbreak would translate to an extended deadline like with the state’s income and corporate taxes.
“We are aware of network issues yesterday that impacted the Sales and Use Tax filing platforms. These issues have since been resolved,” Jennifer Sciortino, a spokesperson for the state treasury, said in a statement to NJBIZ on April 21.
Sciortino assured that anyone who ran into the site’s issues would not be “disadvantaged by any delays in filing, meaning they won’t be tagged with penalties,” and urged “anyone who experienced difficulties to attempt to file again as soon as possible.”
Earlier this month, Gov. Phil Murphy approved an extension of the deadline to file state income and corporate and business tax from April 15 to July 15, so as to match the Internal Revenue Service’s extension.
That would buy companies more time to fully gauge how the COVID-19 impact – such as mass business closures, record joblessness and an overall hesitation to go outside – will have on businesses and their revenue.
Businesses have seen steep drops in revenue, and to balance their books have furloughed workers.
But lawmakers have no plan to extend the sales tax filing deadlines – same with the property tax filing deadlines which are due on May 1.
“Making those payments is a lot easier,” Sen. Budget and Appropriations Chair Paul Sarlo, D-36th District, said on Monday. “Just calculating and making those calculations on what you owe… a lot less complications with deductions and offsets and net losses.”
State law requires businesses to pay and file their sales tax for the month by the 20th day of the following month. And so April 20 was the deadline for shops to pay sales tax on any transactions made during March.
In addition, the State Treasury has four quarterly deadlines: Jan. 20, April 20, July 20 and Oct. 20 for any filings on sales tax.
“Anyone that would file and pay today would be considered late. At the same time, everyone had 20 days to file” for March, Chris Cicalese, manager at the Cherry Hill accounting firm Alloy Silverstein, told NJBIZ on Tuesday.
“Everyone thought that the payments were going to get delayed and at the same time they might not have had any cash to pay anything. So they finally realized yesterday that the sales tax deadline was not extended, so they filed so they wouldn’t get penalized, and they ended up getting stuck on the website,” he added.
New Jersey was already “late to the party” with pushing back the filing deadline by three months, and business owners had already been slammed with an “onslaught of information between the CARES Act, [paycheck protection program], and unemployment,” according to June Toth, a managing member at the Clark-based accounting firm ZBT CPA and Consulting.
“There were a lot of questions because there was a delay and extensions for New Jersey” on the income and business tax, Toth added.
Business owners complained about missing confirmation numbers, faulty filing systems, and applications that simply could not be completed.
“The state’s site crashed and kept crashing, said Al Rosenkranz, the office manager for a Vineland shop.
“I went in, did everything, double-checked my math and hit submit, and I got this screen, it was basically an ‘uh-oh’ screen… ‘sorry, something happened’. I went back, did it again” and the same thing, he continued.
“When you went through” the filing, “it came up as an error – you didn’t know if it went through or not,” Toth said. “We had clients, we advised them to check the bank accounts to see if the funds” had been taken, she added.
“It’s been hit or miss.”
A bill introduced by Assemblyman Ron Dancer, R-12th District, on April 13 would have added another 45 days onto the April 20 deadline – but the measure has not moved forward since its referral to the Assembly Appropriations Committee that same day.
Also on that day, the state Senate approved the creation of a program within the state’s Economic Development Authority for businesses to apply for payment deferrals on obligations such as the sales and income tax, as well as contributions to worker’s compensation, unemployment, temporary disability and family leave.
“The deferrals would provide businesses with access to cash to continue to meet payroll, purchase goods and services from suppliers, and other vital business costs,” reads a statement from the Senate Democrats Office.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article listed one of the quarterly sales tax filing deadlines as June 20; it is July 20. The post was updated at 11:23 a.m. EST on April 23, 2020.