How Will the Government Shutdown Affect Your Tax Returns?

tax forms on desk with office supplies

As of midnight, on December 22, 2018, the United States government was forced into a shutdown. As a result, many government-run businesses and agencies have been forced to close their doors or reduce staff, which in turn reduces efficiency. Furloughed workers and closed doors mean many government employees are going weeks without a paycheck.

Another looming question is tax returns. With the beginning tax season drawing near, many are relying on their tax returns to accommodate expenses after the holiday, and now US Citizens are wondering how the government shutdown will affect their tax refunds.

IRS confirms tax returns will be processed

On January 7th, the Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, officially confirmed that it will still be processing tax returns as scheduled, despite the government shutdown. They will begin accepting returns on January 28th.

Short-handed staff

Until lawmakers in Washington DC can come to an agreement, the government will remain shut down. This will continue to have an immediate effect on federal agencies.

The IRS is one of the many agencies affected. Many of the IRS’ employees have been furloughed, meaning they won’t be receiving pay due to the shutdown and therefore aren’t expected to show up for work. According to Yahoo! Finance, only 12% of the IRS’ staff is currently working.

Despite being shorthanded now, the IRS will be recalling many of their furloughed employees back into work to assist with tax season.

Be prepared for an intense tax season

While the IRS has said tax returns will be going out on time, it’s best to prepare for potential setbacks.

Since the IRS won’t have all their staff at hand (unless the government comes out of the shutdown very soon), answering every question from taxpayers will be more difficult than ever. CNBC documents that the IRS reportedly “gets more than 95 million calls on its toll-free lines each year.”

Since many of the furloughed workers are responsible for the answering of these calls, it can be expected that getting on the phone with the IRS won’t be easy. And reduced service isn’t the only thing the IRS has to worry about this year.

2019 was already expected to be a rough year, due to major changes to the tax code. The following things have been changed:

  • Tax rates
  • Alimony payments
  • Business income
  • Charitable and medical deductions
  • Child tax credits
  • Estate-planning

Be prepared for a surprise when filing your taxes this year, as many things may be different. And if you do have a question, you may be better off contacting other tax resources, such as a financial planner or an online tax filer (like H&R Block or TurboTax), rather than making a phone call to the IRS. The IRS website will also have a multitude of resources available to you if you find yourself with any questions.

The bottom line

  • The government is shutdown, but the IRS says your tax returns will still be handled on time.
  • The IRS will begin accepting tax filings on January 28th, 2019.
  • The government will remain shutdown until the lawmakers come to an agreement.
  • It may be difficult to receive government assistance in the coming weeks due to furloughed workers being out of work.
  • Changes to the tax code go into effect this tax season.

To keep an eye on developments regarding tax returns this tax season, look at the IRS Newsroom for any updates straight from the IRS.

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