Filing taxes? Here's how a government shutdown impacts the process

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Filing taxes? Here's how a government shutdown impacts the process

Millions of Americans are ready to file their 1040s when the tax season opens Jan. 29 , but will the Internal Revenue service be open to process them? And how long will it take to get a refund?

When Congress failed to agree on a funding bill early Saturday, the U.S. government officially ran out of money for the fiscal year and shut down, triggering furloughs for “non-essential” employees.

That could impact the more than 155 million individual tax returns that the IRS is expected to receive in 2018.

The IRS will keep about 43.5 percent of its employees -- 35,076 -- on the job, CNN reported. According to Forbes magazine, the IRS has a contingency plan to operate during a government shutdown.

The plan says that “If the IRS is confronted by a lapse in appropriations during the 2018 Tax Filing Season, the IRS will need to continue return processing activities to the extent necessary to protect Government property, which includes tax revenue, and maintain the integrity of the federal tax collection process, along with certain other activities authorized under the Anti-Deficiency Act.”

Fine, fine. But what about those refunds?

Here’s what will -- and won’t -- happen:

  • There will be no refunds issued

  • There will be no audits or examinations, although there may be some exceptions

  • There will be no processing of non-disaster relief transcripts

  • Forms such as 1040X or amended returns will not be processed

  • There will be no non-automated collections

According to Forbes, here are some functions that will continue:

  • E-filing

  • Mailing of tax forms

  • Call centers, which will remain open during filing season (more than 10,000 customers service representatives will handle telephone calls)

  • Processing returns that include payments

  • Appeals

  • Civil and criminal tax cases

  • Active criminal investigations

  • The IRS website, IRS.gov;

  • More than 3,000 IT-related workers will remain on the job

This is a contingency plan, of course. The last time the government shut down in 2013, everything closed, including customer service and call centers, Forbes reported.

And what about the Republican tax cut bill that President Donald Trump signed into law last month? Tax experts said that a lengthy shutdown could complicate the challenge the IRS faces in implementing the new guidelines, The Washington Post reported.

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