Will the U.S. Government Shutdown Affect My Tax Return?


We’ve been getting a ton of questions over the past few weeks about how the current U.S. government shutdown will affect state and federal tax returns. While there is still a significant amount of confusion and uncertainty, we are recommending taxpayers file on time as normal and check back regularly for news on any refund delays or changes to the filing process.

In case you weren’t already aware, most Internal Revenue Service (IRS) operations are closed during the shutdown – with over 70,000 employees on mandatory furlough since December 22, 2018. However, many employees have been recalled from their furlough, and acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Russell Vought, confirmed the IRS will process tax returns beginning January 28, 2019 and provide refunds to taxpayers as scheduled.

What You Can Expect During the Shutdown

  • Automated applications. IRS.gov and many automated applications remain available, including such things as Where’s My Refund, the IRS2go phone app and online payment agreements.

  • Telephones. No live telephone customer service assistance is currently available, although the IRS will be adding staff to answer some of the telephone lines in the coming days. Due to the heavier call volume, taxpayers should be prepared for longer wait times. Most automated toll-free telephone applications will remain operational.

  • In-person service. IRS walk-in taxpayer assistance centers (TACs) are closed. That means those offices are unable to handle large cash payments or assist identity theft victims required to visit an IRS office to establish their identity. In-person assistance will not be available for taxpayers experiencing a hardship.

  • Taxpayer appointments. While the government is closed, people with appointments related to examinations (audits), collection, Appeals or Taxpayer Advocate cases should assume their meetings are cancelled. IRS personnel will reschedule those meetings at a later date, when the IRS reopens.

  • Taxpayer correspondence. While able to receive mail, the IRS will be responding to paper correspondence to only a very limited degree during this lapse period. Taxpayers who mail in correspondence to the IRS during this period should expect a lengthy delay for a response after the IRS reopens due to a growing correspondence backlog.

  • Tax-exempt groups. The IRS will not be processing applications or determinations for tax-exempt status or pension plans.

  • Enforcement activity. During this period, the IRS will not be conducting audits, but automated initial contact letters will continue to be mailed. No collection activity will generally occur except for automated collection activity. For example, automated IRS collection notices will continue to be mailed. Criminal Investigation work, however, continues during this period.

  • Passports. The IRS will not be certifying for the State Department any individuals for passport eligibility.

Additional details about how the IRS tax filing season will be impacted by the shutdown are included in an updated FY2019 Lapsed Appropriations Contingency Plan released publicly earlier this month.

If you have any questions about how the U.S. government shutdown may impact your tax return or refund, please CONTACT US right away. We’re here to help!