Congressman asks IRS to explain shutdown impact on filing season

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House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., is asking the Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Department to explain what impact the partial government shutdown will have on the upcoming tax season.

In separate letters Friday to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Neal pointed out that tens of thousands of IRS employees have been furloughed during a critical period before the opening of tax season as the shutdown enters its 13th day. The IRS has not yet announced when filing season will begin, and there is a chance it will be delayed. Taxpayers will still be expected to file their taxes on time, although tax refunds may well be delayed.

“I understand that the IRS furloughed nearly 70,000 IRS employees (87.5 percent of the workforce), ceased needed taxpayer services, and stopped issuing tax refunds during the government shutdown,” wrote Neal. “These actions are causing undue hardship to American taxpayers and the IRS civil servants.”

In his letters, Neal asked Rettig and Mnuchin to provide detailed information about how the shutdown would affect the IRS’s ability to accept and process tax returns, provide refunds, and address backlogs in taxpayer correspondence. He noted that the delays in tax refunds could hurt families who count on that money “to pay for basic expenses like rent, food, and child care.”

The delay in government operations also comes as taxpayers, tax professionals and the IRS are struggling to deal with the implications of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the biggest change in federal tax law since 1986, which Congress passed at the end of 2017.

“Given this is the first tax filing season to reflect the overhaul of the tax law, it is particularly important for stakeholders, taxpayers, and the Congress to understand Treasury’s current capabilities and anticipated challenges, including those related to the government shutdown,” said Neal.

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Tax season Tax reform Richard Neal Charles "Chuck" Rettig Steven Mnuchin