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Is the IRS Open for Business?

With the length of the partial government shutdown now breaking historical records, it’s important to understand how the situation is impacting taxpayers. Here’s the latest information, current as of January 17, 2019:

The IRS plans to start processing tax returns and issuing refunds on January 28th. Last year’s “opening date” was January 29th, so the shutdown hasn’t affected the start of the tax season. The announcement that refunds will be paid even if the shutdown continues was welcome news since refunds were not paid during previous shutdowns. However, by law refunds that include the Earned Income Credit and/or the Additional Child Tax Credit cannot be released prior to February 15, regardless of whether the budget impasse is resolved before then or not.

At the onset of the shutdown, approximately 12% of the IRS’s staff was retained on the job, most notably workers deemed to be critical to maintaining technology and doing criminal investigations. It was just announced that the IRS is now requiring nearly 60% of its workforce to come back to work even though employees will not receive paychecks until the shutdown is over.

While the agency’s website and mobile app remain operational, there will be no live customer support. Calls to the IRS’s main taxpayer assistance line are greeted with a recording saying service is not currently available. Because they are currently closed, the same recording greets calls to local Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs), including the office on Charles Boulevard in Greenville, NC. No appointments can be made until the centers are back in operation, and no plans seem to be in the works to open the centers while the shutdown continues.

While the IRS continues to process payments made online and through the mail, it is not answering most correspondence. Anyone who mails any sort of written request should expect to wait until the government is reopened before getting a response. Unfortunately, this includes anyone who is applying for nonprofit status for their organization. Taxpayers should anticipate long wait times once the phone lines and TACs reopen. Written correspondence will also be slow to return to normal processing times.

In a bit of good news, the IRS will not be initiating any new audits during the shutdown. However, they have cautioned that all returns will still be subject to normal internal reviews for tax fraud and identity theft. Additionally, some automated collections letters may still go out.

Unfortunately, the IRS being partially closed does not give you a break on filing and paying your taxes. Be assured that the deadline for filing your 2018 return and paying any tax due remains April 15th. You should continue to make all required payments (estimated tax payments, business payroll taxes, etc.) by their normal deadlines. It is very important that anyone in a payment agreement with the IRS continues to make all scheduled payments on time to avoid defaulting on the agreement.

So in summary, returns need to be filed as usual and refunds will be paid as usual. Though we are experiencing an unprecedented event, the main impact on most taxpayers will be the inability to get live assistance from the IRS. We can help. We are ready to assist you with your tax return, so give us a call instead … we’ll be here to answer it!

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