DESKTOP VIEW

IRS Sets Start Date for Tax Season, Will Issue Refunds During Government Shutdown

IRS announces the opening of the 2019 tax season (the 2018 tax return year) opening during the ongoing limited government shutdown….the recalling of a significant portion of its staff and its statutory authority to issue refunds despite the limited shutdown.  The deadline this year is Monday, April 15, 20019 for most taxpayers.

The IRS announced on Monday January 7, 2019 evening that Despite the government shutdown it is prepared to start processing 2018 tax returns on Jan. 28 and that it will pay tax refunds despite the partial shutdown of the federal government.

“We are committed to ensuring that taxpayers receive their refunds notwithstanding the government shutdown. I appreciate the hard work of the employees and their commitment to the taxpayers during this period,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig.

The agency has been operating under a contingency plan that has furloughed 88% of the IRS’s workforce. It says it will recall “a significant portion” of its furloughed staff for tax season. The agency also says it will issue an updated contingency plan in the next few days.

“IRS employees have been hard at work over the past year to implement the biggest tax law changes the nation has seen in more than 30 years,” said Rettig.

Under the IRS’s original contingency plan, which officially ran through Dec. 31, the agency would process electronic returns (and paper returns up to a certain point) but would not issue refunds. However, the IRS believes it has statutory authority to issue refunds under 31 U.S.C. Section 1324, and the IRS has consistently been of the view that it has authority to pay refunds despite a lapse in annual appropriations. Although in 2011 the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) directed the IRS not to pay refunds during a lapse, OMB has reviewed the relevant law at Treasury’s request and concluded that IRS may pay tax refunds during a lapse.

The IRS is shut down because it is one of the government agencies that did not have its budget funded through fiscal year 2019. The agency’s funding ran out at midnight Dec. 21, and since then it has been operating under a contingency plan that allows for preparation for filing season and a limited number of other activities.

As in past years, the IRS will begin accepting and processing individual tax returns once the filing season begins. For taxpayers who usually file early in the year and have all of the needed documentation, there is no need to wait to file. They should file when they are ready to submit a complete and accurate tax return.

The filing deadline to submit 2018 tax returns is Monday, April 15, 2019 for most taxpayers.  Because of the Patriots’ Day holiday on April 15 in Maine and Massachusetts and the Emancipation Day holiday on April 16 in the District of Columbia, taxpayers who live in Maine or Massachusetts have until April 17, 2019 to file their returns.

Software companies and tax professionals will be accepting and preparing tax returns before Jan. 28 and then will submit the returns when the IRS systems open later this month. The IRS strongly encourages people to file their tax returns electronically to minimize errors and for faster refunds.

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