Shutdown could cause tax delays, but not for most

By ALLEN LAMAN
alaman@dcherald.com

We’re nearly one month into the partial government shutdown, and tax season is just around the corner. You may wonder how the federal freeze will affect your tax refunds and returns.

According to a local tax professional, slight delays could occur for those who request their funds in the form of a check, but most people won’t notice a thing.

“For most people, I don’t think it will affect them,” said Allen Seifert of Seifert Tax in Jasper. “Unless there’s an issue with the IRS not being able to complete the work they need to do on their internal systems to make sure the factors compute right.”

Normally, Seifert said it takes 14 days or less for bank accounts to receive direct deposits from the IRS. It takes about a week longer to receive mailed checks.

According to information on the IRS website, taxpayers are urged to file electronically to speed processing and refunds, as well as minimize errors. Seifert said the exact timing of this year’s returns won’t be known until about a week or so into tax season, which will begin for individual taxpayers on Monday, Jan. 28. The IRS began accepting business tax returns on Jan. 8.

At the time of the interview, the biggest issue Seifert foresaw was that people couldn’t call the IRS with questions or concerns or visit local offices — like the one in Evansville — because they are still closed. He also expressed concerns with the IRS’ system, saying unchecked errors could slow down the filing process.

The IRS announced last week that customer service phone lines will open soon, however. According to a Treasury Department announcement made Tuesday, about 46,000 of the entity’s employees will be recalled to work for tax filing season despite the partial shutdown. Due to heavier volume, callers should be prepared for longer wait times. Local offices will remain closed and in-person assistance will not be available for taxpayers experiencing a hardship.

Seifert said those who typically send in for refunds and returns near the beginning of the filing window need the money they’re in line to receive. It’s big to them, he said.

“For the people who file right away and tend to get the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit, those are big numbers that come back,” he said. “I think the average refund is like $2,800, and there are people out there getting [$4,000] and $5,000 back.”

While the shutdown continues, the IRS will not conduct audits, but automated initial contact letters will continue to be mailed. No collection activity will generally occur except for automated collection activity. Criminal investigation work, however, will continue during the period.

Additional information related to the 2019 filing season can be found on IRS.gov.




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