As noted in my post on January 9 (available here), the drama of the ongoing government shutdown was not expected to interrupt the 2019 tax filing season, which officially begins on January 28, 2019. The tax preparer community is operating under the assumption that all tax returns will be timely processed when filed and that refund checks will be issued at some point. At least that is the expectation set by the White House Office of Management and Budget. However, as discussed below, these expectations may now be optimistic thinking.
A labor union representing IRS employees stated earlier this week that the current White House plan for the 2019 tax filing season requires about 45,000 furloughed IRS employees return to work without paychecks. Otherwise, the IRS may not be able to timely process tax returns and issue refunds. To further complicate matters in D.C., the union has sued on behalf of those federal employees who are currently being forced to work without a paycheck. As the debate continues, the IRS has been working with a skeleton crew to address critical issues such as the system-wide implementation of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and criminal tax case investigations. Even with a significant recall of employees, the tax filing season is likely to be challenging, with slow processing times and diminished customer service.
Despite the uncertainty and unrest remaining in Washington, taxpayers are still required to meet all filing and payment deadlines. Taxpayers must also timely address any authentic correspondence received from the IRS (be wary of fraudsters impersonating the IRS, available here). Taxpayers needing to respond to the IRS during the shutdown should send all correspondence by certified mail with green card receipt. Doing so will provide written evidence of the correspondence being sent through the United States Postal Service in a timely fashion. To protect themselves, taxpayers should continue operating as if the IRS is too.