By Jason Bramwell
The IRS reported on October 16 that Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) renewals have been delayed for 2014 due to the federal government shutdown.
On a page the IRS set up on its website to update taxpayers about what services the agency could and could not provide during the shutdown, the IRS stated an e-mail or letter will be sent to all current PTIN holders notifying them when the 2014 renewal season will open.
The IRS reiterated that the "online PTIN system is still available for users to log in and view or change information or to secure a PTIN for 2013."
The House of Representatives and the Senate voted late in the evening on October 16 to end the shutdown that began after Congress failed to reach a compromise on how to fund the government in the new fiscal year, which began October 1. President Obama signed the measure early the morning of October 17 and stated that the government would reopen immediately. However, the government funding package approved by Congress will only last through January 15, 2014.
More than 85,000 IRS employees who were furloughed by the shutdown were allowed to go back to work October 17. Because of a lack of manpower, the IRS had to halt several services during the government stoppage, including processing paper tax returns, issuing tax refunds, and sending out levies or liens.
Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), which represents the IRS workforce, said during a media briefing October 17 that she expects the IRS customer service assistance hotline and walk-in taxpayer assistance centers, which were not available to taxpayers during the shutdown, to be slammed with calls over the next few days.
"Now, federal employees are being asked to step up and try to undo the harm", she said.
Kelley emphasized that NTEU's post-shutdown priorities include getting federal employees paid for lost time as quickly as possible.
"Federal employees should not have to wait for the next scheduled paycheck to receive their back pay", she said.
According to Kelley, the union's other immediate priorities include the following:
- Helping to mitigate any workplace issues the shutdown may have caused for employees.
- Working with supporters in the House and the Senate to ensure that any final fiscal 2014 agreement provides NTEU-represented agencies with sufficient resources to meet their missions and that it ends sequestration.
- Making sure federal employees are not harmed in any budget deal.
"They have suffered far too much already", she said. "Federal employees are being used as pawns in a political game that must stop. Through no fault of their own, federal workers have been locked out of their offices and prevented from doing their work. Now, they face the prospect of returning to a workplace unsure of what tomorrow holds."