By Jason Bramwell
As IRS employees are returning to work following the conclusion of the sixteen-day federal government shutdown that ended late last week, the agency said on October 18 it is assessing the impact the work stoppage had on its national operations.
The shutdown, which began on October 1 and concluded late in the evening on October 16, furloughed several thousand IRS employees and halted many services the agency provides, such as processing paper tax returns, issuing tax refunds, and sending out levies and liens.
The shutdown also prevented taxpayers from using the IRS customer assistance hotline and walk-in taxpayer assistance centers and delayed Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) renewals for 2014.
"At this point, we know we received a large amount of correspondence during the closure. We know there will be a substantial increase in demand for our phone services and many other operations", the IRS said in a statement posted on its website on October 18. "On October 17, we started reopening our phone lines and our taxpayer assistance centers, both of which will take time to ramp up to normal operating status. In addition, other business operations have started resuming, including the processing of billions of dollars of refunds for individuals and businesses, and honoring transcript and authorization requests from third parties."
Given the high demand for services, the IRS is encouraging taxpayers to wait to call or visit if their issue is not urgent and to continue to use automated applications on the IRS website whenever possible.
"Taxpayers who need immediate assistance are encouraged to visit taxpayer assistance centers in their area or try call centers but should be aware there will be delays", the IRS stated. "In the days ahead, we will continue assessing the effect of this unprecedented situation on IRS operations, and we will do everything we can to resume our normal operations as quickly as possible so that we can best serve the needs of the American taxpayer. We greatly appreciate the patience of taxpayers and tax professionals during this period."