I miss the IRS. I know. I’m just as shocked as you are by that statement. Ever since the “SHUTDOWN” that ceased activity for all non-essential government personnel began on December 22nd, the IRS hotline has greeted callers with: “Welcome to the IRS. Live telephone assistance is not available at this time. Normal operations will resume as soon as possible.”
The IRS is closed. Almost closed, that is.
During a government shutdown like this one, the IRS typically doesn’t perform audits, pay refunds or offer assistance to taxpayers or tax professionals because approximately 88% of their workforce is missing leaving fewer than 10,000 IRS federal employees to run the show. This is basically the equivalent of them trying to do their normal jobs with both arms tied behind their backs.
Not a fan of the IRS and don’t care? Well, you just might.
Since the shutdown happened in late December and the tax filing season usually begins in mid-January, this has left the IRS in quite the crunch updating software for the new filing season to get the electronic filing system ready for action. If the shutdown is resolved by mid-January, it may have little lasting impact on taxpayers. However, if it continues, it is not clear when the filing season will begin.
Any delay in the start of filing season could result in a delay in taxpayers receiving their refunds. Last year, the IRS began accepting e-filed returns on January 29. By the end of that first week, the IRS had received 18.3 million returns and processed 6.1 million refunds, with an average refund of $2,035. In a nutshell, if the shutdown continues, the tax refund you thought you’d have by Valentine’s Day may not come until St. Patrick’s day or even later.
Shut down or no shut down, this filing season was already slated to be a difficult one for tax practitioners because they’re about to file taxes under the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, new legislation that took effect January 1, 2018, for the first time ever.
Even though the IRS may be delayed, it doesn’t mean due dates have changed. Due dates remain unchanged so don’t wait to file your taxes. Get your pertinent tax information to your tax practitioner as soon as possible. With all the changes to the tax code coupled with the uncertainty as to when the tax filing season will begin, your tax practitioner will thank you for turning in your tax documents sooner rather than later.
When the government shutdown ends, the IRS should be back business as usual. Until then, we wait.