Need help with understanding English sometimes, native speaker.
January 31, 2017 4:06 PM   Subscribe

I came across the phrase "...without regard to..." in a sentence used by the IRS. My problem is that reading it I feel uncertain of the meaning of the sentence. Can anyone explain this to me or point me to some books/resources that would help me have a less ambiguous understanding? more below

Not the exact sentence but very similar: The penalty is based on the tax not paid by the due date (without regard to extensions). My problem is that in my head I can argue that this means not paid by the due date regardless of whether the due date was a due date that was created by filing an extension or not. In the same way you might say: "we hire based upon character without regard to religious belief." This is similar to the problem I have with multiple choice tests wherein I argue with myself in the vein of "what exactly do you mean by 'the'." I do not know if in this case it is because I know so little about grammar, (my english is all aural,) or if it is because I seem incapable of seeing black and white. Regardless if someone has insight and could explain this to me and/or suggest some resources so that when I come across similar bits of language I can make up my mind what they mean I would greatly appreciate it.
posted by Pembquist to Education (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
In every case I can think of right now, "without regard to" can be replaced by "ignoring". So in the case of that sentence, if there were extensions, they were ignored, and the penalty is based on the original due date. I'm not sure how else you're reading this particular sentence - in my opinion, it cannot be parsed to mean "extensions were taken into consideration", but can only be parsed to mean "extensions were ignored".
posted by brainmouse at 4:11 PM on January 31, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I think you have the right sense of the words. However, I would read that particular sentence as implying that "due date" means the original due date, without regard to any extensions that might have been granted. (That when the IRS gives an extension, the new due date is considered to be different in character from an ordinary "due date".) But to know for sure, you would have to have a deeper understanding of how the IRS uses language so the final answer becomes a question for experts, not something that it is clearly understandable on the surface.
posted by metahawk at 4:12 PM on January 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

Work in tax department, not on income tax. Traditionally penalties are based on the original filing date. This guarantees most income tax is sent by April 15th, which helps for fiscal planning.
posted by politikitty at 4:34 PM on January 31, 2017

Agreed, "ignoring" (or better, "ignoring the effect of") is a suitable substitution. The penalty is based on the tax not paid as at the original due date, not as at some other date they might have subsequently agreed to extend to.
posted by tillsbury at 5:10 PM on January 31, 2017

Former IRS Tax Examiner. This opinion is my own, and not that of the Service. I have insight that might be helpful:

An extension of time to file your US Individual Income Tax is not an extension of time to pay your US Individual Income Tax.

Consider Form 4868, the "Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return". In the General Instructions for F4868 it states "Form 4868 doesn't extend the time to pay taxes".

Your tax is due before the original return due date but you have until the extended return due date to file the supporting documentation.
posted by Rob Rockets at 5:33 PM on January 31, 2017 [2 favorites]

The meaning is still ambiguous even if you substitute "ignoring". The sentence is genuinely, logically unclear. To know for sure, you'd need more text about the same topic.
posted by amtho at 5:34 PM on January 31, 2017 [3 favorites]

That said, the policy information that other people are putting forth matches what I've been told in the past. However, I'd call the IRS or read about it elsewhere if it's important to you.
posted by amtho at 5:36 PM on January 31, 2017

Could it be how the interest on what is owed is calculated? So the interest is calculated from the due date, not from any later extension dates.
posted by kjs4 at 8:55 PM on January 31, 2017

"...without regard to..." could be inverted to "...regardless of..." if that makes it sound more natural. So basically what a lot of folks said above.

The "based on the tax not paid by" part is what sounds super clunky to me, and the whole sentence, read out loud, has that awful 1950s robot hall monitor cadence to it.

But it certainly seems like you get penalized for the amount of tax left unpaid at the time it's due, and extensions don't matter.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 2:04 AM on February 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all for the replies. The sentence is intended to mean the due date not including extensions, (this I know from other sources,) and I can understand why. My problem is that I can argue the meaning of the language both ways in my head and I don't know how to reach a confident decision about meaning from just the language, and this happens to me a lot.

The IRS uses this sentence: "If you do not file your return by the due date (including extensions), you may have to...." Which is completely clear. I often seem to run into language more like the first sentence and find myself at sea. I need someway of learning how swim.
posted by Pembquist at 8:39 AM on February 1, 2017

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