By Ken Berry
Now the sequester is getting really serious! The IRS may shut down its offices completely for a few days surrounding several upcoming holidays in order to accommodate the federal government's budgetary needs. If this occurs and you have to get in touch with an IRS agent on one of those days, you might as well head down to the local fishing hole.
Previously, the nation's tax collection agency announced plans for its staffers to take unpaid furloughs during the summer to accommodate across-the-board budget cuts mandated for government units. The furloughs for IRS employees, which were expected to last up to seven days, are required so the IRS can meet the stated goal of trimming more than $590 million from its payroll. What's more, the IRS now estimates it will have to cut spending by another $100 million under the stopgap budget recently approved by Congress and the Obama administration.
Based on information from the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), the organization representing IRS workers, the IRS could shut down completely on four days to coincide with long holiday weekends. The holidays that the NTEU says the IRS is potentially targeting include Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day (the three major federal holidays in the summer). For instance, because the 4th of July falls on a Thursday, the IRS could shutter its offices on Friday, July 5. In addition, the IRS may add two to four more days to the shutdowns.
"While there are advantages to that [furlough plan] for employees, there are also disadvantages", NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley was quoted as saying. "Moreover, IRS may assert that when employees serve their furlough days is nonnegotiable, which would deny our bargaining team the chance to decide which approach is better."
Kelley noted that some IRS workers may prefer more leeway in scheduling their furlough days due to child care concerns or other personal circumstances. "Our efforts at the bargaining table will be directed at providing employees with maximum flexibility while allowing the agency to meet its mission", she said.
The IRS is staying mum on whether a shutdown around the summer holiday weekends is being weighed as an alternative. "At this point, the IRS is still looking at between five and seven days for employee furloughs", a spokesperson said in a prepared statement. "We have not finalized any decisions involving timing or specific dates, but the furloughs will be later this year after major filing season work is completed."