With tax season fast approaching, Americans are bracing themselves for the possibility of a government shutdown. Any interruption in nonessential operations could have serious consequences for taxpayers’ filing experience, warns IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel. While the agency is legally permitted to maintain certain activities during a funding lapse, shutdowns remain highly disruptive and pose significant risks to the smooth functioning of the filing season.

Congress finds itself facing two urgent deadlines, one on January 19 and the other on February 2, in order to avoid a shutdown. The second deadline directly affects the IRS, and although efforts have been made to extend both deadlines to early March, the limited working days remaining to reach an agreement create a time crunch. The potential for a shutdown in the midst of the filing season adds uncertainty to an already complex situation.

Werfel reassures taxpayers that every effort will be made to minimize disruptions caused by a shutdown. However, as some tax preparers have already begun accepting 2023 returns, the official start of the season on January 29 could be jeopardized if a shutdown ensues. While certain IRS functions would continue during a shutdown, such as critical operations, the specific employees who would be required to work remain unclear.

The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) has expressed concerns about various aspects of a potential shutdown. In a letter sent to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Commissioner Werfel, they highlighted issues related to phone service, taxpayer assistance centers, refund delays, paper correspondence, and automated notices. The AICPA called for updates to the contingency plan, specifically addressing activities related to the filing season.

Kasey Pittman, tax policy director at Baker Tilly’s Washington tax council, points out that no one benefits if the IRS has to resort to its contingency plan. The implications of a shutdown could pose significant challenges to the agency’s progress on resolving past issues and implementing new initiatives. Mark Everson, a former IRS commissioner and current vice chairman at Alliantgroup, reinforces this concern, emphasizing that this filing season is not ordinary. Delays in implementing programs like the employee retention tax credit and the Direct File pilot program would directly impact taxpayers.

Meanwhile, the IRS faces mounting pressure to enhance its service as a result of increased funding and efforts by some Republican lawmakers to retract it. The agency’s long list of responsibilities adds to the complexity and strain it already faces.

A potential government shutdown threatens to disrupt the upcoming tax filing season. The impact on taxpayers could be substantial, with possible delays, limited customer service options, and uncertainty surrounding essential IRS operations. The need for lawmakers to finalize a deal or pass a short-term funding measure is critical to ensure a smooth and efficient filing experience for all taxpayers. Additionally, the IRS must navigate the challenges of improving its services while managing budgetary constraints. The road ahead remains uncertain, and only time will tell if our tax filing season will be met with unexpected obstacles or proceed as intended.

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