Employees, including those who had been recalled from furlough at the IRS, are missing work amid the partial federal shutdown, even as tax season is about to begin.
Hundreds of workers at the tax agency received permission from their managers to miss work, claiming that they are facing hardship, The Washington Post reported.
News of the absences arrives a week after the IRS released its contingency plan for the tax filing season, which begins on Monday, Jan. 28.
The agency called for more than half of its staff — roughly 46,000 people — to return to work.
“After a month with no pay, real hardship does exist for IRS employees, including not having the money needed to get back and forth to work or to pay for the child care necessary to return to work right now,” said Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union.
“The longer employees go without pay, more face financial hardships,” he said.
The IRS did not immediately return calls for comment.
Gien this latest development, expect to experience hiccups as you prepare to submit your tax return.
For instance, live customer service via phone isn’t available, but the IRS has said it will add workers to cover the lines. You can expect lengthier wait times if you’re calling with questions.
Further, taxpayer assistance centers are closed during the shutdown. That means you won’t be able to get any help in person.
Here’s what else you should know.
Many taxpayers, million in fact, submit their returns as soon as they can. These households often need their refunds to pay down debt.
Last year, the IRS began accepting returns on Jan. 29.
By Feb. 2 — the end of that week — the agency received 18.3 million returns and processed 6.1 million refunds, with an average refund check of $2,035.
In all, the IRS received 154.4 million returns by Nov. 23 of last year, the most recent date available, and issued an average refund of $2,899.
“If you have a simple return, why wait?” said Ed Slott, CPA and founder of Ed Slott and Co. in Rockville Centre, New York.
“At least file and get in the queue,” he said. “Get your place on line.”
This latest shutdown is taking place at a busy time for the IRS, accountants and filers.
This filing season marks the first under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act — an overhaul of the tax code that went into effect at the beginning of 2018.
Last year, the new tax code roughly doubled the standard deduction to $12,000 for singles and $24,000 for married couples filing jointly. The law also limited a number of itemized deductions, including placing a $10,000 limit on the amount of state and local taxes filers can deduct.
You will also be dealing with new tax forms, as the Form 1040 has been shrunken to the size of a postcard. You will still need to work through pages of schedules to calculate other tax breaks.
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