US Government Shutdown & the IRS – 2018 into 2019
We are now in week three of the government shutdown.
During a federal government shutdown, many agencies close their doors and workers are furloughed, meaning that they are off work and without pay. Government employees who perform “essential services” (military, law enforcement, etc.) continue to work, but without pay until the budget is passed. The last major government shutdown occurred in 2013 during the Obama administration when lawmakers could not agree on the terms of the Affordable Care Act. That one lasted 16 days and impacted the personal finances of thousands of government employees, not to mention the effect it had on the US economy.
Not surprisingly, the IRS does not fit into any category of emergency/essential services that would keep it open. There are pros and cons to the IRS closure, depending on your individual situation. If you owe back taxes and you’re working with a revenue officer, maybe you would like more time to arrange your affairs and this little break may be just what you need right after a busy holiday season. However, if you need to get into contact with the IRS for whatever reason, then this has certainly been a frustrating couple of weeks.
Don’t even bother calling the IRS right now. If you try one of the IRS 800 numbers, you’ll get a very generic message saying “all circuits are busy, please try your call again later.” If you call a local office (I called Fresno, CA for example) you’ll get a slightly more informative greeting: “live telephone assistance is not available at this time.” And if you have a revenue officer’s direct line, you may get something like “I will be out of the office for the duration of the government shutdown,” and then a referral to the US Treasury website for more details on the shutdown. I suspect that the IRS may have their fax services turned off as well because a couple numbers that I use frequently are not currently working. The IRS does not typically use outside email to communicate with taxpayers or their representatives. The IRS website appears to be working normally; in other words, they’re still accepting payments.
I anticipate that the government shutdown is going to have some lasting effects on IRS operations and workflow. Once IRS employees go back to work, they will be faced with weeks of backlog that has been piling up. I think we can expect things to just move more slowly for a month or two while they catch up after their return.
If you have any further questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to get into contact with us.