The IRS has just announced it will recall 46,000 furloughed workers to do their duty of processing tax returns and issuing refunds. An agency-wide furlough began on December 22, 2018.
The return of the employees, who will work without pay until the partial government shutdown ends, means you can expect to get your refund in a timely manner this year — despite some back-and-forth speculation.
Now, the IRS has new advice to guide you through the process of filing this year. It outlines what to do, what not to do and what to expect as millions of Americans get ready to file their taxes at this unprecedented time in our nation’s history.
The IRS highly recommends that you e-file
Paper returns will be accepted, but the IRS is definitely doing everything it can to steer people toward e-filing because of the unusual circumstances surrounding this year’s tax season.
“The IRS strongly encourages people to file their tax returns electronically to minimize errors and for faster refunds,” the agency notes.
Think twice before picking up the phone and trying to call
In the coming days, the IRS will allocate a certain portion of those 46,000 returning furloughed workers to the phone banks. However, there’s no live telephone customer service assistance just yet.
If you do call, make sure you have plenty of patience and keep your expectations in check.
“Due to the heavier call volume, taxpayers should be prepared for longer wait times,” the IRS notes.
The preferred alternative is to use IRS.gov to address any questions you may have this year.
Non-return mail won’t be dealt with until the shutdown is over
Have to correspond with the IRS beyond just sending in a paper tax return? You should also be prepared for a long wait. The agency says it won’t get to that mail until after the shutdown ends.
“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,” the IRS notes.
In-person service won’t be available
The IRS walk-in taxpayer assistance centers you may be familiar with are closed until further notice.
That means the offices won’t be open to accept large cash payments. No in-person assistance for taxpayers facing a hardship will be available. And there won’t be any help for those who need to establish their identity by visiting an IRS office following an identity theft.
All of that will have to wait until the government showdown is resolved.
In light of that, why not just do a free credit freeze and limit the ability of criminals to steal your identity? We’ve got details on how you can do it here.
The IRS is cancelling all taxpayer appointments
Assume any meetings you have scheduled with the IRS related to “examinations (audits), collection, Appeals or Taxpayer Advocate cases” are cancelled for now.
You’ll hear from IRS personnel when they return to the job to reschedule for a future date after the government reopens.
Tax-exempt status applications are on hold
Seeking tax-exempt status for your organization? The IRS says it won’t accept new applications at this time. Nor will it make determinations about existing applications until the government reopens.
The IRS won’t conduct any audits during the shutdown
The tax laws of our nation still apply during the partial government shutdown. Criminal investigation work and basic enforcement activity like examining returns for fraud and identity theft will continue unabated.
However, the IRS will cut back in some other areas.
“During this period, the IRS will not be conducting audits, but automated initial contact letters will continue to be mailed,” the IRS writes. “No collection activity will generally occur except for automated collection activity.”
Passport certification will not take place
This is a very difficult time to get a passport if you have international travel on the horizon!
“The IRS will not be certifying for the State Department any individuals for passport eligibility,” the agency notes.
The best way to check your refund status remains the same
As in years past, the IRS says the best way to determine the status of your refund is to use the “Where’s My Refund?” tool or to download the IRS2Go mobile app.
All automated apps from the IRS like these two remain up and running during the shutdown.
Special Thanks to Theo Thimou with Clark Financial for “original” content/data share