IRS operations during the appropriations lapse

Jan. 28 update: The IRS has reopened following the end of the government shutdown and is working to resume normal operations. Today, the IRS also successfully opened the 2019 filing season for taxpayers. The IRS will be doing everything it can to have a smooth tax season and minimize the impact on taxpayers. The IRS will issue refunds as soon as possible and expects many early refunds to be paid in mid- to late February like previous years. Demand on our telephone lines during the early weeks of tax season is traditionally heavy, so taxpayers are encouraged to use IRS.gov.

Due to the lapse in appropriations, most IRS operations are closed during the shutdown. An IRS-wide furlough began on December 22, 2018, that affects many operations.

During this period, the IRS reminds taxpayers that the underlying tax laws remain in effect, and all taxpayers should continue to meet their tax obligations as normal. Individuals and businesses should keep filing their tax returns and making payments and deposits with the IRS, as they are required to do by law.

2019 Filing Season: Key Information for Taxpayers

The IRS has announced that the 2019 filing season will begin on Jan. 28, 2019, for individual taxpayers. The IRS began accepting business tax returns (non-1040 series) on Jan. 8.

Taxpayers should keep several things in mind during this challenging period:

  • File electronically. The IRS will accept paper and electronic tax returns, but taxpayers are urged to file electronically to speed processing and refunds.
  • Tax refunds. Refunds will be paid, but the IRS cautions that returns will continue to be subject to refund fraud, identity theft and other internal reviews as in prior years. Taxpayers should use e-file or Free File with direct deposit to help speed refunds.
  • Tax filing. Taxpayers can go ahead and start working on their returns in advance of the Jan. 28 opening. Both tax software and tax professionals will be available and working in advance of IRS systems opening. Software companies and tax professionals will then submit the returns when the IRS systems open. The IRS strongly encourages people to file their tax returns electronically to minimize errors and for faster refunds.

Additional information related to the 2019 filing season will be available in coming days on IRS.gov.

Limited Operations During the Appropriations Lapse

Automated applications. IRS.gov and many automated applications remain available, including such things as Where’s My Refund, the IRS2go phone app and online payment agreements.

Telephones. Limited live telephone customer service assistance is available. Due to the heavier call volume, taxpayers should be prepared for longer wait times. Automated toll-free telephone applications will remain operational. The IRS encourages people to use IRS.gov for information.

In-person service. IRS walk-in taxpayer assistance centers (TACs) are closed. That means those offices are unable to handle large cash payments or assist identity theft victims required to visit an IRS office to establish their identity. In-person assistance will not be available for taxpayers experiencing a hardship.

Taxpayer appointments. While the government is closed, people with appointments related to examinations (audits), collection, Appeals or Taxpayer Advocate cases should assume their meetings are cancelled. IRS personnel will reschedule those meetings at a later date, when the IRS reopens.

Taxpayer correspondence. While able to receive mail, the IRS will be responding to paper correspondence to only a very limited degree during this lapse period. Taxpayers who mail in correspondence to the IRS  during this period should expect a lengthy delay for a response after the IRS reopens due to a growing correspondence backlog.

Tax-exempt groups. The IRS will not be processing applications or determinations for tax-exempt status or pension plans.

Enforcement activity. During this period, the IRS will not be conducting audits, but automated initial contact letters will continue to be mailed. No collection activity will generally occur except for automated collection activity. For example, automated IRS collection notices will continue to be mailed. Criminal Investigation work, however, continues during this period.

Passports. The IRS will not be certifying for the State Department any individuals for passport eligibility.

Tax Court. Important updated information for taxpayers and tax professionals with Tax Court cases, including mail being returned and issues with court petitions not being processed.

For tax professionals and others interested in a more detailed view of IRS operations during the shutdown, there is an extensive listing available in the filing season lapse plan.

The IRS will continue to update this page to provide taxpayers and tax preparers with the latest information available on the tax filing season.