The federal government shutdown is no longer looming. It’s happening. And with tax season here, the question taxpayers and tax pros alike are asking is: How will this impact operations at the IRS?
The answer seems to be, “It’s complicated.”
According to the U.S. Treasury, 56 percent of the IRS workforce will be furloughed during the shutdown, leaving the agency with a bare-bones staff as it works its way through the early stages of implementing the massive Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The shutdown will impact the speed with which that gets done.
“(The IRS has) so much to do already: You’re losing precious time in terms of getting important information to taxpayers,” Mark Everson, a former IRS commissioner who now works at the tax consulting firm alliantgroup, told The Washington Post. “A shutdown would certainly be frustrating at the time you’re trying to get on top of the new statute, and every day counts.”
But the term “shutdown” isn’t really accurate, since many federal functions deemed “essential” will remain up and running.
That’s the story at the IRS as well.
Forbes tax reporter Kelly Phillips Erb has written a comprehensive look at how the shutdown impacts the IRS. She says an IRS contingency plan has identified the functions that may stop during the shutdown. These include tax refunds, the processing of non-disaster relief transcripts, the processing of forms 1040X (amended returns), non-automated collections, audits, and whistleblower-related activity.
Other IRS functions may continue uninterrupted. These include the processing of returns with payments, e-filing, mailing tax forms, appeals, call centers, civil and criminal tax cases, certain communications to taxpayers, active criminal investigations, and the IRS.gov website.
“It’s worth noting,” Phillips Erb writes, “that while this is the contingency plan, it’s not set in stone. In 2013, changes were made at the last minute, including shuttering the (Taxpayer Advocate Service) offices.”
In other words, stay tuned.
And just in case you had any questions, Phillips Erb concludes with this: “The 2018 filing season is slated to open Jan. 29, shutdown not.”
Read more about the shutdown’s impact here: