You’ll likely get your refund on time even if the Internal Revenue is short-staffed of the government shutdown and no-shows among unpaid workers who are financially strained.
That’s because the tax process is largely automated for tax returns filed electronically and for refunds delivered by direct deposit, according to industry insiders. Only returns that trigger a review during the automated process could face delays.
Almost nine in 10 tax returns were filed electronically last year, according to IRS statistics, while eight in 10 refunds were distributed to taxpayers by direct deposit. Nearly all tax professionals and tax preparation software will file your returns electronically.
“If there are no glitches on a return that requires no intervention, then those returns will go through fine and those refunds will be issued in the normal time frame,” said Kathy Pickering, executive director of The Tax Institute at H&R Block. “Where people are going to have issues is if they need to interact with the IRS or something on a return needs further review.”
What you should do
Skip paper returns this year, Pickering said. Instead, e-file directly with the IRS or through your tax preparation software or tax professional. Opt for direct deposit, too, instead of a paper check
Go through your tax checklist carefully, so you don’t make any mistakes and spark a hiccup. Do you have W-2s from every employer you worked for in 2018? Do you have all 1099 forms showing contract or freelance income you earned? Use last year’s completed tax return to jog your memory on documents you may need.
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If you need help, that’s where you could run into problems at the IRS. Live telephone service at the IRS and mail correspondence with taxpayers will be limited during the shutdown, according to a notice the agency put out last week. Walk-in taxpayer assistance centers that handle large cash payments, help identity theft victims and manage hardship requests are closed during the shutdown.
For immediate help, especially navigating the new tax law changes, the major tax prep companies offer a variety of ways to consult with a tax pro on your individual returns.
No-shows at IRS
Fears about delayed refunds surfaced on Tuesday after The Washington Post reported that some IRS employees recently recalled to work had claimed financial hardship and weren’t reporting for duty. On a Facebook group called “The Official Government Shutdown Group,” some IRS workers said co-workers weren’t reporting to work.
The agency didn’t comment specifically on employee hardship claims and instead provided a more general statement saying that it’s preparing for the upcoming filing season and will “continue to assess the situation at this time.”
The National Treasury Employees Union said it hasn’t received any hardship numbers from the IRS, either. But it noted IRS workers can request a hardship exemption when an emergency arises, such as not having enough money for gas or child care.
“That is why the exemption exists,” said NTEU National President Tony Reardon in a statement to USA TODAY. “The longer employees go without pay, more face financial hardships.”