This article was written before the government reopened. The reopening is only temporary, for the next three weeks, so these problems may arise in the future.
The tax overhaul of 2017 will affect every tax return filed for 2018, and tax season starts Jan. 28. At this moment the IRS will have approx. 46,000 of its more than 80,000 employees at work. This years start date is consistent with last years filing season, so not much has changed in that capacity. The agency has said it will re-open call sites that had been closed during the shutdown. But even those wont be fully staffed and wait times could be extremely long.
This tax overhaul affected tax brackets, expanded the child tax credit and eliminated or limited several niche breaks.
The IRS is running with only 57% of staff. This could make the upcoming tax season hard for tax payers. With newly updated systems and revised forms to accommodate all the law changes, hiccups are bound to happen. Here are some issues to be aware of for this tax season.
- Minimal Customer Service – This is a problem that the agency has struggled with in the past, without a shutdown. It will be worse this year with the smaller staff. While call lines will re-open, tax payers are likely to have more questions this year regarding the changes in the law.
- Slower Refunds – The IRS will continue to process refunds during the shutdown. But there could be more issues that cause delays to those payments as a slimmed down staff manages a full filing season.
- Technical Mishaps – Computer malfunctions have plagued the IRS in recent years as the agency has been expanding its online systems. Last year the IRS had to extended the filing deadline by a day after its website crashed on what was suppose to be the filing deadline. In 2015 the system was also breached and the personal data of over 700,000 taxpayers was stolen by hackers
- Still No Paychecks – the IRS employees working during this shutdown are still not getting paid. In the past, Congress has voted to approve back pay for all federal employees, regardless of whether they worked or were furloughed during the shut down. But until a deal is reached the workers are not getting paid, and that will surely impact morale.
Just remember a shutdown does not mean there is an opening to avoid the taxes you owe. Even if the agency is understaffed at the moment, they will eventually be back at full force.