White House Says IRS to Issue Refunds During Shutdown

By:
Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Jan 8, 2019
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The White House announced that the IRS will still be issuing tax refunds, even if the government shutdown continues through filing season, according to Bloomberg. Russell Vought, the acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, told reporters at a briefing, “Tax refunds will go out.” This is in contrast to previous shutdowns, when the service held on to refunds until the government was funded. This was because the IRS had interpreted the Antideficiency Act, which says that only work that protects life and property is permissible during a shutdown, as excluding the issuance of tax refunds. 

CNBC pointed out that only 12 percent of the IRS's staff is actually working during the shutdown. The IRS shutdown contingency plan that it released to the public early last month held that it would only retain employees who are compensated through avenues other than the annual appropriations; those whose work is necessarily implied by law; those engaged in the protection of life and property, such as law enforcement activities; and employees performing shutdown activities, a very small number who will be working half days. All other employees are furloughed, which includes those responsible for processing returns and issuing refunds.

The IRS said that, "[a]lthough in 2011 the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) directed the IRS not to pay refunds during a lapse, OMB has reviewed the relevant law at Treasury’s request and concluded that IRS may pay tax refunds during a lapse." Therefore, it said, the "IRS will be recalling a significant portion of its workforce, currently furloughed as part of the government shutdown, to work." 

“We are committed to ensuring that taxpayers receive their refunds notwithstanding the government shutdown. I appreciate the hard work of the employees and their commitment to the taxpayers during this period,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig.

With this in mind, the IRS said that the filing season is set to begin on Jan. 28, 2019, as previously scheduled. The filing deadline to submit 2018 tax returns is Monday, April 15, 2019, for most taxpayers. Because of the Patriots’ Day holiday on April 15 in Maine and Massachusetts and the Emancipation Day holiday on April 16 in the District of Columbia, taxpayers who live in Maine or Massachusetts have until April 17, 2019, to file their returns.

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