Donald Trump

How the Government Shutdown May Affect Your Tax Returns and Refunds

Tax season normally kicks off toward the end of January

With tax season fast approaching, filers seeking money back on their 2018 income taxes could see delayed refunds if the federal government shutdown continues.

According to an Internal Revenue Service operational plan for the shutdown, issuing refunds is listed under "non-excepted" activities that would be furloughed during the stalemate.  The agency is operating with just 12 percent of its workforce, mainly focused on technology and security.

Jenny Brown, head of the union representing IRS employees in Ogden, Utah, told The Standard-Examiner that Ogden serves as a support center for income tax inquiries from the general public. 

Brown, who's president of Local 67 of the National Treasury Employees Union, said with minimal IRS staffing, those with questions are "not going to get through" on IRS phone lines or they're going to have much longer waits than usual.

Tax season normally kicks off toward the end of January. Last year, the IRS began accepting returns on Jan. 29, CNBC reported.  Within days, the IRS has received more than 18 million returns and processed over 6.1 million refunds averaging $2,899 each, according to CNBC.

The IRS plan only outlines how it would handle a shutdown in the first five days, but with Congress and President Donald Trump at an impasse over funding for wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, the agency may have to revise their procedures and force employees to report to work without pay. 

Additionally, taxpayers are about to file for the first time under the new tax code, which took effect in 2017. Implementing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act "requires creating or revising hundreds of tax products including worksheets and tax forms, form instructions and publications as well as changes to current IRS policies and procedures." That work is likely to be stalled by the shutdown.

Taxpayers tend to receive many of the forms they need to file, including the W-2 and 1099 in January. For those still wanting to file as soon as possible, tax prep service providers say they are ready to receive early returns.

"Filers can prepare their tax returns now and beginning Jan. 4, TurboTax will securely store completed returns for transmission to the IRS and states once they begin accepting e-file," TurboTax said in a statement. 

The company, along with others, also offers refund advances – short-term loans that you can receive within days of the IRS accepting your return. You would then use your tax refund proceeds to pay off the loan.

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