IRS Orders 36,000 to Return Without Pay To Process Tax Refunds

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Jan 16, 2019

Despite the government shutdown, the IRS said it will recall 36,000 additional furloughed employees to ensure that tax refunds go out on time, according to CNN. For the most part, they will not be paid to do so. The only employees who will be paid are the roughly 800 employees whose incomes derive from user fees instead of tax dollars. While the Treasury employees' union sued to prevent the government from compelling workers to return without pay, a judge denied the request yesterday. A union spokesperson noted that IRS employees have already missed one paycheck, and said that demanding that they continue working in exchange for what's essentially an IOU is not sustainable in the long term. 

Overall, the IRS said that filing and refunds will proceed as normal. On the other hand, during the shutdown, many services will remain limited or unavailable: 

Automated applications. and many automated applications remain available, including such services 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 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 only to 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.

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