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IRS Releases Shutdown Plan

Filing season officially begins on Monday, but the partial federal government shutdown has lurched into history as the longest U.S. shutdown ever. The State of the Union address may have to wait until the doors reopen for business, but the Internal Revenue Service will still provide some services—which are spelled out in its FY2019 Lapsed Appropriations Contingency Plan. Just like we promised, it’s time to take a look at those plans.

What services will the IRS provide during the shutdown?

During a partial government shutdown, the IRS still provides several key services. Two of the big ticket items are accepting returns and— as we recently discussed on the blog—issuing tax refunds, and, interestingly, the agency maintains “activities necessary for orderly agency shutdown” (6). Before we look at the other services that will be available, it’s probably worth mentioning that the shutdown will not cause a delay in the start of filing season or an extension in April. Barring other circumstances, the deadline is the deadline: April 15 for most states; April 16 for Maine and Massachusetts due to celebrating Emancipation Day.

Emergency Services

Emergency services related to events like natural disasters will, for the most part, be provided. When it comes to what will or won’t be available, just ask yourself “will another agency reimburse the IRS for costs incurred while performing this service?” If the answer is “yes,” then it’s a strong bet that the IRS will provide it (7).

For example, answering phones at FEMA call sites and sending staff to Joint Field Offices are reimbursed activities, so they will be available during the shutdown. However, the IRS will not perform other disaster-related services like working the W&I Toll-Free Emergency Hotline and sending staff to Disaster Recovery Centers unless specifically directed to do so—reopening these services, the agency says, would fall under “activities necessary to safeguard human life or protect government property” (7-8).

Excepted Activities

“Excepted activities” are those services that have been funded outside of the lapsed appropriations, required by specific legislation, or deemed too important to discontinue. Another thing to consider is whether the service is part of an automated process. If it is, then it is likely to be available during the shutdown.

While the contingency plan specifically separates services based on whether they are considered necessary for the safety of people or government property, we have combined the IRS’ two example lists into one series of bullets:

• “Maintaining minimum staff necessary to handle budget matters related to the lapse in appropriations • Services performed by the IRS that are necessary to the Social Security Administration’s carrying out certain functions that would continue despite a lapse in appropriations • Activities necessary for the payment of refunds including:

Processing electronic returns through issuance of refunds
Processing Paper Refund Tax Returns through issuance of refunds
Processing 1040X Amended Refund Returns Adjustments including Carrybacks, Amended
Returns, Duplicate Filed Returns (DUPF), Correspondence, Injured Spouse Claims, Disaster
Claims, F843 Claim for Refund and Request for Abatement in support of issuing refunds
Processing Department of Defense Claims for refunds
Manual Refund Support – Clerical
Document preparation, screening and control of work in Image Control Team

• Completion and testing of the upcoming Filing Year programs
• Processing Remittances including Payment Perfection
• Processing disaster Relief Transcripts
• Responding to taxpayer filing season questions (call sites)
• Continuing the IRS’ computer operations to prevent the loss of data
• Protection of statute expiration, bankruptcy, liens and seizure cases
• Upcoming Tax Year forms design and printing
• Protecting Federal lands, buildings, and other property owned by the United States
• Minimal building facilities personnel to maintain safe conditions for excepted personnel
• Maintaining minimum staff necessary to perform accounting functions and to prevent the loss of accounting data
• Administering contracts related to safety of human life or protection of Government property
• Maintaining criminal law enforcement and undercover operations” (11-12)

Finally, the IRS notes the services that won’t be available may include things like audits, legal counsel, and answering the phones before and after tax season. Remember, this blog is by no means an exhaustive discussion of what the IRS will do during the partial federal government shutdown. If you’re interested in reading the document for yourself, a link has been included at the bottom of the page.

Have a great filing season!

Source: IRS FY2019 Lapsed Appropriations Contingency Plan

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