How the Government Shutdown Affects You as a Taxpayer (part 1)

Unless you have been purposely avoiding the news and social media, you have no doubt heard about the partial shutdown of the federal government beginning December 22, 2018, and now continuing into its third week. As the White House and Congress remain at odds over funding for a border wall with no deal in sight, many government agencies may not return to “business as usual” for some time—including the IRS, which is currently running on only 12.5 percent of its workforce. If the shutdown continues into tax season, how will it affect taxpayers? Let’s begin by addressing two of the biggest concerns.

Can I Still File My Tax Return?

Not only can you still file, but you’re also required to do so by the normal filing deadlines, no matter how long the shutdown lasts. The IRS won’t begin accepting returns until January 29, and if the government reopens before then, we probably won’t see any difference in any of the IRS functions. However, even if the shutdown continues, the IRS will still be able to receive tax returns by mail or online.

Will My Refund Be Delayed?

Here’s the rub: Under normal IRS contingency rules, while they still require you to file, they may delay issuing your tax refund until the government reopens—and if they get backlogged with returns in the meantime, those delays could theoretically be significant. However, at the time of this writing, according to CNBC and other sources, the White House says it has arranged for the IRS to issue refunds during the shutdown. Provided this report holds true (sometimes the White House story changes), you should receive your refund on schedule, or at least close to it. (Since the IRS is operating with limited manpower, we may reasonably expect some delays even if refunds aren’t being held.)

If you have other tax questions or concerns, the experts at Highland Tax Group are available regardless of the government shutdown. Call us at 720-398-6088 to schedule an appointment.