An IRS Update: What Works and What Doesn’t During the Shutdown

  |   January 16, 2019

The IRS has announced that due to the lapse in appropriations that began on December 22, 2018, most IRS operations are closed during the shutdown.

Under a contingency plan covering the tax filing season, the IRS is recalling 57% of its workforce in order to handle some tax season duties. Their workforce will increase from 9,946 employees who have been working since the start of the shutdown, to 46,052 employees. This plan will allow the IRS to process tax returns and issue refunds, but limitations on other services remain as described below. Most of the workers who return will be unpaid until the government shutdown ends.

During this period, the IRS reminds taxpayers that the underlying tax laws remain in effect, and all taxpayers should continue to meet their tax obligations as normal. Individuals and businesses should keep filing their tax returns and making payments and deposits with the IRS, as they are required to do by law.

Limited Operations During the Appropriations Lapse

Automated applications. IRS.gov and many automated applications remain available, including such things as Where’s My Refund, the IRS2go phone app and online payment agreements.

Telephones. No live telephone customer service assistance is currently available, although the IRS will be adding staff to answer some of the telephone lines in the coming days. Due to the heavier call volume, taxpayers should be prepared for longer wait times. Most automated toll-free telephone applications will remain operational. The IRS encourages people to use IRS.gov for information.

In-person service. IRS walk-in taxpayer assistance centers (TACs) are closed. That means those offices are unable to handle large cash payments or assist identity theft victims required to visit an IRS office to establish their identity. In-person assistance will not be available for taxpayers experiencing a hardship.

Taxpayer appointments. While the government is closed, people with appointments related to examinations (audits), collection, Appeals or Taxpayer Advocate cases should assume their meetings are cancelled. IRS personnel will reschedule those meetings at a later date, when the IRS reopens.

Taxpayer correspondence. While able to receive mail, the IRS will be responding to paper correspondence to only a very limited degree during this lapse period. Taxpayers who mail in correspondence to the IRS during this period should expect a lengthy delay for a response after the IRS reopens due to a growing correspondence backlog.

Tax-exempt groups. The IRS will not be processing applications or determinations for tax-exempt status or pension plans.

Enforcement activity. During this period, the IRS will not be conducting audits, but automated initial contact letters will continue to be mailed. No collection activity will generally occur except for automated collection activity. For example, automated IRS collection notices will continue to be mailed. Criminal Investigation work, however, continues during this period.

Passports. The IRS will not be certifying for the State Department any individuals for passport eligibility.

REDW will continue to update our blog readers on IRS developments as we approach the tax season. Contact Christina Roderick, 602-730-3607, or Mike Chelius, 505-998-3495, if you would like to discuss individual or business tax planning.

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