By Jason Bramwell
Now that the April 15 tax-filing deadline has passed, the IRS has issued furlough notices to more than 89,000 of its employees due to sequestration.
The National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) – the nation's largest independent federal union that represents 150,000 employees in thirty-one agencies and departments – states in a press release that the IRS has identified five furlough days where the agency will shut down completely, leaving taxpayers without access to information and assistance from frontline workers. Those days include:
- May 24
- June 15
- July 5
- July 22
- August 30
The thirty-day notices to employees also leave open the possibility of another two unpaid furlough days.
"Implementation of any furlough days is a disappointing development", NTEU president Colleen Kelley says in a written statement. "Furloughing IRS employees is further evidence of the ongoing damage sequestration is causing across the country."
Kelley adds that the NTEU will continue its discussions with the IRS over the furlough process, with the goal of mitigating the impact on employees.
During a speech at the Tax Executives Institute on March 18, IRS Chief Counsel William Wilkins hints that the IRS might issue furlough notices, but he adds "no furloughs will occur at IRS before summer."
"Like nearly every other government agency, the IRS is also coping with the funding reduction imposed by sequestration", he says. "The first steps have involved hiring freezes, reduced grant funding, and cutbacks in areas like travel and training. But because our greatest expense by far is employee pay, it appears that a number of furlough days will be necessary."
Kelley notes that considerable tax filing goes on throughout the year, including by small businesses, taxpayers who make quarterly payments, businesses operating on a fiscal year basis, estates, and government entities.
"On these days, phone calls to the IRS will go unanswered, and Taxpayer Assistance Centers across the country will have 'closed' signs in their windows", she says. "I believe this is an unprecedented event that leaves taxpayers out in the cold."
In a written statement, US Representative Kevin Brady (R-TX) blames President Obama for not staggering the furlough days in a way that allows someone at the IRS to always assist taxpayers.
"When small business owners have questions about payroll taxes or a family is wondering where their refund check is, someone needs to be on the other end of the telephone to answer those questions", he says.