While the federal government has been temporarily reopened after the longest shutdown in history, the IRS faces a serious backlog, and taxpayers face a confusing season with a whole new set of tax laws. Having previously discussed the obstacles facing the agency—including the threat of another shutdown in coming weeks—what can taxpayers expect, and how can they best prepare for what lies ahead in the coming weeks and months?
Expect Long Waits on the Phones
All through the shutdown, the IRS call centers were closed and taxpayers couldn’t get their questions answered. Now that the shutdown is over, many of those taxpayers will be clamoring to get on the phone with agents. To complicate matters, CBS News reports that call centers currently can only handle 35 percent of incoming calls because many furloughed IRS workers found other jobs and didn’t report for work this week. If you need to talk to someone from the IRS, be patient, keep trying, and be prepared to hold for a while.
Consider Filing Electronically
If you usually mail your returns to the IRS, you might want to consider filing electronically this year. The agency is currently dealing with a significant backlog of taxpayer letters, and they don’t even expect to begin processing mail-in returns until mid-February—which, if you’re paying attention, is when the temporary government spending bill expires. Your chances of getting your tax refund on time definitely increase this year with electronic filing.
File as Soon as Possible
Until Congress and the White House find a way to end the impasse on border security, uncertainty remains as to whether the government can remain open past February 15. Now is the time to file, during what may be a brief window when the IRS is operating near full capacity. The sooner you file, the more likely you are to receive a timely return.
Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst
Under the best-case scenario, most taxpayers will receive their refunds on time; under the worst, refunds may be delayed for significant amounts of time due to a backlog, shutdown staffing issues, and other logistical concerns. You still need to file your taxes by the April 15 deadline, and if you’re owed a refund, you will receive it eventually. Just exercise patience and flexibility with the IRS during this uncertain time.
If you’re facing serious tax problems, you don’t have to wait for the IRS to get caught up to receive the professional help you need. Call the Highland Tax Group for an appointment at 720-398-6088.