Some IRS News & Some FTB News

Internal Revenue Service

The IRS expects the 2014 tax season to be delayed by one to two weeks.  That would mean the new tax season would begin somewhere between January 28th and February 4th.  The reason for the delay?  None other than the historic Fall 2013 government shutdown.

The IRS normally begins tuning and tweaking their complicated tax return processing systems in the fall, even before the start of the 4th quarter.  This year’s system testing period was delayed when the IRS closed its doors during the first half of October.  You should also be aware that the February 4th start date is only an estimate.  The IRS will re-evaluate and confirm the 2014 Tax Season start date in December.

California Franchise Tax Board

We often hear about federal tax scams, but the FTB recently sent out a warning to California residents to keep their eyes and ears open for phishing schemes and identity theft.  There is apparently a scheme which targets elderly taxpayers in Beverly Hills.  The caller, posing as a FTB employee, tells the victim that they were ticketed for a red light violation and their case has been forwarded to the FTB for collection purposes.  As ridiculous as this may sound, the IRS has been given so many additional responsibilities over the years that it’s hard to say what they may have a hand in.  So, why not the FTB too?

The moral of the story is the same as it always is for the IRS: they won’t contact you by email, and they will rarely call you without sending a series of notices first.  You need to be suspicious if either of these things happen to you.

Government Shutdown: Residual Effects on IRS

The effects of the “government shutdown” have been far-reaching and I’m certain we will feel the effects for months to come, even if everything is switched back on soon.

In IRS world, even one day off tends to cause residual delays and bottle-necks.  For example, when the IRS observes a national holiday and shuts down on a Friday or a Monday, the work tends to pile up, making it more difficult for taxpayers to get help for the following couple business days.  This is especially true in the IRS call centers where they have little control over work flow.  A salaried employee, such as an IRS revenue officer, can put in extra time before a day off so that work doesn’t pile up too much.  But the work flow of an hourly call center employee is more dependent on the volume of inbound taxpayer phone calls.

The IRS always experiences high call volumes on Mondays and days following holidays because IRS problems don’t just go away on their own.  If you can’t get through to the IRS on one day, you’ll probably try again as soon as possible.  And I don’t feel like the IRS hold times have ever really recovered to what they once were before the IRS began furloughing employees earlier this year.  But now we are talking about an unprecedented closure of several days in a row (and how many more, we do not know).  I would not be surprised if the residual effects of the IRS shutdown are felt well into 2014.

Long Holiday Weekends for IRS This Year

Now that tax season is over for the on-time filers, many IRS employees can relax just a little.  And for at least 5 additional days this year they actually can relax at home . . . without pay.  Bloomberg apparently got its hands on an internal IRS memorandum informing IRS employees which days have been scheduled as furlough days this year.

The IRS furlough dates are:

  • May 24
  • June 14
  • July 5
  • July 22
  • August 30

These furlough dates were chosen to coincide with the federal holidays already on the calendar, so we will be looking at several four and five-day IRS closures throughout the rest of 2012.  I say five days because the IRS often shuts down early the day before a holiday, sometimes for computer maintenance, and sometimes so they aren’t disturbed during their potlucks.  I’ve always thought that “computer maintenance” was code for holiday party or potluck, but that’s just my slightly jaded opinion.

The IRS, as well as many other federal government agencies, is resorting to furloughs in reaction to budget reductions that took effect earlier this year.  Acting IRS Commissioner, Steven Miller, explained his reasoning for the agency-wide closures:

We came to a decision that balances our primary mission to serve the taxpayers and considers the effect on employees. We settled on having uniform furlough dates for everyone and closing down agency operations entirely. This way, the IRS can gain additional cost savings on utilities and other services in our work locations.

According to Miller, the closures will affect all local taxpayer assistance centers and call centers. should be up, but the availability of online services such as Transcript Delivery Service and other IRS practitioner tools is unknown.  And, if necessary, there may be an additional two furlough days coming in August and September.  Plan your vacations accordingly.