By Jason Bramwell
The IRS on October 8 posted updated information for taxpayers on its website about what services the agency can and cannot provide while the federal government is shut down.
Tax deadlines and refunds. The October 15 deadline for individuals who requested an extension to file their tax returns is still in effect, the agency emphasized. Taxpayers can file their tax return electronically or on paper; however, the processing of paper returns will be delayed until full government operations resume. Payments accompanying paper tax returns will still be accepted. Any paper tax return postmarked by October 15 will be considered filed on time by the IRS, even though processing may not occur until after the due date, depending on the length of the shutdown.
"All other normal tax deadlines remain in effect, including those covering individuals, corporations, partnerships, and employers", the IRS stated. "The regular payroll tax deadlines remain in effect as well. Penalties and interest still apply for all late filings not received by the regular deadlines."
Tax refunds will not be issued until the shutdown ends. Tax software companies, tax practitioners, and Free File will remain available to assist people with their taxes.
Tax transcripts. An individual taxpayer will be able to obtain a tax transcript during the shutdown because it is an automated process. Individuals can still use automated tools, including the IRS website, to request that a transcript of their personal tax records be sent to their address of record. The taxpayer will typically receive the transcript in the mail within five to ten calendar days.
However, third parties, such as financial institutions, cannot obtain tax transcripts during the shutdown because the request requires actions by IRS employees who are currently furloughed. These requests cannot be processed through the Return and Income Verification Services and Income Verification Express Service because they are not automated.
Levies and liens. During the shutdown, the IRS is not sending out levies or liens – either those generated systemically or those manually generated by employees. The agency noted that taxpayers could still receive levy or lien correspondence with October mailing dates, but those notices were printed before IRS shutdown operations were fully complete. The IRS stated it is standard practice for levy or lien notices to be printed with a future date to allow for mailing time to reach taxpayers.
In addition, the IRS explained that other letters related to liens and levies, such as notifications that a taxpayer could potentially be subject to a lien or levy at a future date, will be automatically generated by IRS systems during the shutdown. However, the IRS emphasized these notices are not actual levies or liens, but a notification of potential future action. For more information on the IRS collection process, see Publication 594.
Enforcement actions. In noncriminal cases, the only enforcement actions taken by the IRS during the shutdown involve isolated instances where the agency needs to take immediate action to protect the government's interest.
"Any enforcement action in this category – such as seizures – would be extremely limited; for example, where the expiration of the statute of limitations on collection action is imminent", the IRS said. "For criminal issues, most IRS criminal investigation employees continue to work during this period, similar to other federal law enforcement agencies."