IRS Is Recalling Thousands of Furloughed Workers: How This Could Affect You

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With the ongoing government shutdown threatening to delay the refunds of millions of taxpayers, as well as delay the resolution of outstanding tax cases, the White House this month broke with conventional protocol and announced that the IRS would be able to process refunds as normal beginning at the end of January. Further, they have reopened several call centers to work on collection cases. To that end, in keeping with the IRS’ own contingency plan, approximately 36,000 furloughed IRS workers are being called back into work. How might this development affect your refund or case?

In theory, you should get your refund, as planned and on time. But in reality—we still have reason to doubt. Let’s look at the latest developments:

  • The recalled furloughed workers are effectively required to work without pay. Although these workers can be recalled as “essential” employees, with the government shut down, there is no money to pay them.
  • Hundreds of recalled IRS workers have declined to show up for work, citing hardship. With no income, some of these workers simply don’t have the money to afford the commute.
  • The government is permitting many of these IRS workers to stay home despite being recalled. According to their union contracts, these workers may stay home from work during a shutdown if going to work presents a financial hardship.

If you owe the IRS, we’re able to make calls to both the practitioner priority hotline and collections. We’re back to work in this regard. If you’re receiving notices from the IRS don’t delay. We can put a collection hold in place which will allow us time to work on the best possible resolution to fit your needs. This collection hold will keep you protected from tax liens, bank levies, wage garnishments, and any additional collection action the IRS may take. Revenue Officers, Advisory, Audit, Taxpayer Advocate, Offer in Compromise and Appeals are not back in the office as of yet.

In short—despite the IRS mandate to recall half its workforce to process tax returns, in many cases, the federal government actually doesn’t have the teeth to enforce such a mandate. If enough IRS workers stay home claiming hardship, the agency still won’t have enough manpower to process the millions of incoming returns. As for those workers who do show up, the longer they go unpaid, the more likely their motivation and morale will drop. Further your collection case or any documentation mailed in (such as back tax returns, financial forms, appeal requests, Offer in Compromise forms, or claims of hardship, will be delayed.

What You Should Do in the Meantime

Technically, there’s no reason to delay filing your tax return or working on your collection case, unless you have questions only the IRS helpline can answer. (The helplines remain closed during the shutdown.) You might even get your refund on time. However, common sense suggests you should prepare for delays anyway. File as early as possible, and don’t make financial commitments based on your tax return until you actually receive it.

Government shutdown aside, for any tax problems you might be facing, the experts at the Highland Tax Group are here to help. To schedule an appointment, call us at 720-398-6088.