Personal Finance

About 14,000 recalled IRS employees haven't come to work this week amid the shutdown

Key Points
  • The IRS released its contingency plan, ordering 46,052 staffers to return to work through the shutdown.
  • Tax season begins Monday.
Demonstrator hold signs during a protest rally by government workers and concerned citizens against the government shutdown on Friday, January 11, 2019 at Post Office Square near the Federal building, headquarters for the EPA and IRS in Boston.

Thousands of recalled employees at the IRS missed work this week, despite being summoned back to work amid the partial federal shutdown.

As many as 14,000 staffers at the tax agency did not come into the office, CNBC has confirmed.

A number of employees have received permission from their managers to miss work, citing financial hardship.

News of the absences arrives a week after the IRS released its contingency plan for the tax filing season, which begins on Monday, Jan. 28. The agency called for more than half of its staff — roughly 46,000 people — to return to work.

President Donald Trump and lawmakers on Friday reached a deal to fund the government for at least three weeks, ending the longest government funding lapse on record.

"After a month with no pay, real hardship does exist for IRS employees, including not having the money needed to get back and forth to work or to pay for the child care necessary to return to work right now," said Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union.

"The longer employees go without pay, more face financial hardships," he said.

The IRS did not immediately return calls for comment.

Given the shutdown, expect to experience hiccups as you prepare to submit your tax return.

For instance, live customer service via phone isn't available, but the IRS has said it will add workers to cover the lines. You can expect lengthier wait times if you're calling with questions.

Further, taxpayer assistance centers are closed during the shutdown. That means you won't be able to get any help in person.

Here's what else you should know.

Get in line

DreamPictures | Getty Images

Many taxpayers, millions in fact, submit their returns as soon as they can. These households often need their refunds to pay down debt.

Last year, the IRS began accepting returns on Jan. 29.

By Feb. 2 — the end of that week — the agency received 18.3 million returns and processed 6.1 million refunds, with an average refund check of $2,035.

In all, the IRS received 154.4 million returns by Nov. 23 of last year, the most recent date available, and issued an average refund of $2,899.

"If you have a simple return, why wait?" said Ed Slott, CPA and founder of Ed Slott and Co. in Rockville Centre, New York.

"At least file and get in the queue," he said. "Get your place on line."

Changes ahead

Treasury announces new 1040 post card sized tax form
U.S. Treasury

This latest shutdown is taking place at a busy time for the IRS, accountants and filers.

This filing season marks the first under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act — an overhaul of the tax code that went into effect at the beginning of 2018.

Last year, the new tax code roughly doubled the standard deduction to $12,000 for singles and $24,000 for married couples filing jointly. The law also limited a number of itemized deductions, including placing a $10,000 limit on the amount of state and local taxes filers can deduct.

You will also be dealing with new tax forms, as the Form 1040 has been shrunken to the size of a postcard. You will still need to work through pages of schedules to calculate other tax breaks.

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