It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Remember the government shutdown that ended last week? It seems the effects of that little debacle are rippling through the American tax system.
The Internal Revenue Service says the shutdown – and the furlough of federal workers that it mandated – meant that the IRS lost valuable time it would have used to program and test its tax processing systems. So the official start of filing, which would have been Jan. 21, 2014, will now be pushed back one or two
weeks. That means filing won’t start any earlier than Jan. 28, and could start as late as Feb. 4.
Very Bad Timing.
About 90 percent of IRS operations were closed during the shutdown – and some major work projects were shut down entirely, putting the IRS nearly three weeks behind its timetable for the start of the 2014 tax season. The agency had big plans to add additional refund fraud and identity theft detection to the tax system, so there are extra training, programming and testing demands on the system this year.
Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel says the delay simply gives the IRS the time it needs to get ready.
“Readying our systems to handle the tax season is an intricate, detailed process, and we must take the time to get it right,” Werfel said. “The adjustment to the start of the filing season provides us the necessary time to program, test and validate our systems so that we can provide a smooth filing and refund process for the nation’s taxpayers. We want the public and tax professionals to know about the delay well in advance so they can prepare for a later start of the filing season.”
Early Birds Get No Worm. Werfel says taxpayers who attempt to send in paper returns before the announced start date will not get quicker attention. No returns will be processed before that new start date. In fact, the IRS is still digging out from the mountain of paperwork it got during the shutdown. The agency had about a
million items being processed before the government shutdown – and another 400,000 came in while workers were on furlough.
For now the bottom line is to use IRS automated systems whenever possible if you need assistance. The human-powered help lines are going to be very busy as they dig out of the shutdown’s backlog. Werfel urges patience. And that may be the best advice of all.
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