Tax Questions? The IRS Can’t Answer On These Days

The IRS is furloughing employees for a total of five days, from now until August, as a result of the budget reductions that started March 1. During these furlough days, all IRS operations will be closed. An additional two furlough days may be required between August and September 30, the day the current fiscal year for the government ends. Bloomberg reports that a memo to employees written by acting IRS commissioner Steve Miller outlines the furloughs and the dates on which they will occur.

The already determined furlough days for the IRS will be May 24, June 14, July 5, July 22, and August 30, according to Miller’s memo. All IRS operations will be closed on the furlough days, including taxpayer assistance centers and toll-free lines. In the memo, Miller wrote, “We came to a decision that balances our primary mission to serve the taxpayers and considers the effect on employees. We settled on having uniform furlough dates for everyone and closing down agency operations entirely. This way, the IRS can gain additional cost savings on utilities and other services in our work locations.”

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The decision to close IRS operations on furlough days have come under attack by the National Treasury Employee Union, which represents IRS employees. Colleen Kelley, president of the union, said the furloughs were a “disappointing development” and that for taxpayers who have filing deadlines besides April 15, “I believe this is an unprecedented event that leaves taxpayers out in the cold.” Miller has previously said that a goal of his furlough plan was pushing the furloughs past April 15 to ensure that there were no bottlenecks processing the personal tax returns that were due…

The IRS currently has a hiring freeze in place and is looking to cut costs in travel, training, facilities, and supplies. According to CNN Money, the so-called sequestration that kicked in at the beginning of March is forcing dozens of Federal agencies to find a way to deal with a total of $85 billion in budget cuts. In February, the Senate was warned by Neal Wolin–acting director of the Treasury Department–that the IRS would complete fewer reviews of tax returns because of the furloughs.

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Union president Kelley wrote, “We have had informal discussions with the agency about this matter and we will engage in bargaining when the formal notice of furlough is provided.” Neal Wolin — deputy director of the Treasury Department — told Congress in February that “the cuts to operating expenses and expected furloughs would prevent millions of taxpayers from getting answers from IRS call centers and taxpayer assistance centers and would delay IRS responses to taxpayer letters.” It remains to be seen how large of an impact the budget cuts will have on the IRS’s operations, particularly on businesses that file taxes.

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