Don’t Let The Government Shutdown Give You A False Sense Of Security If You Owe The IRS
With the temporary opening of the Federal government for three weeks announced on January 25, 2019, tax issues that were held in limbo may now see some movement.
Temporary funding for the IRS for fiscal year 2019 expired at midnight on December 21, 2018. We previously reported how the government shutdown is impacting IRS operations – click here. That initial contingency plan contemplated that the shutdown would last no more than 5 days and involved furlough of 88% of the IRS workforce (totals approximately 87,000) leaving only 9,946 that are allowed to continue working.
Under an updated contingency plan covering the upcoming filing season, the IRS will recall 57% of its workforce to handle tax season duties increasing the number of IRS employees to 46,052 that are now allowed to work. The new plan will allow the IRS to process paper and electronic returns and issue refunds to taxpayers and adhere to its commitment that tax season will start on January 28, 2019 despite an ongoing government shutdown.
The Anti-Deficiency Act.
Overriding each Federal agency’s plan is the Anti-Deficiency Act, 31 U.S.C. §1341, which provides that in the absence of appropriated funds no obligation can be incurred except for the protection of life and property, the orderly suspension of operations, or as otherwise authorized by law. This means that absent an appropriation, many Federal employees are prohibited from working, even on a volunteer basis, “except for emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property”. 31 U.S.C. §1342. Accordingly, each Federal agency must designate those employees whose work is necessary to sustain legal operations essential to the safety of human life and the protection of property.
U.S. Tax Court Operations.
The United States Tax Court shut down operations on Friday, December 28, 2018, at 11:59 p.m. If you have a pending case in U.S. Tax Court, here are some key points to keep in mind:
Q: What should I do if a document I mailed or sent to the U.S. Tax Court was returned to me?
A: If a document you sent to the U.S. Tax Court was returned to you, re-mail or re-send the document to the Court with a copy of the envelope or container (with the postmark or proof of mailing date) in which it was first mailed or sent. Retain the original envelope or container.
Q: My case was calendared for trial. What does the Tax Court’s closure mean for my pending case?
A: The U.S. Tax Court canceled trial sessions for January 28, 2019 (El Paso, TX; Los Angeles, CA; New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; San Diego, CA; and Lubbock, TX), February 4, 2019 (Hartford, CT; Houston, TX; San Francisco, CA; Seattle, WA; St. Paul, MN; Washington, DC; and Winston-Salem, NC) and February 11, 2019 (Detroit, MI; Los Angeles, CA; New York, NY; San Diego, CA; and Mobile, AL). The U.S. Tax Court will inform taxpayers who had cases on the canceled trial sessions of their new trial dates.
The U.S. Tax Court will make a decision about the February 25, 2019 trial sessions (Atlanta, GA; Chicago, IL; Dallas, TX; Los Angeles, CA; and Philadelphia, PA) on or before February 7, 2019. Taxpayers with cases that are scheduled for trial sessions that have not been canceled or that have not yet been scheduled for trial should expect their cases to proceed in the normal course until further notice.
Q: What should I do if I received a bill for the tax liability that is the subject of my Tax Court case?
A: If you receive a collection notice for the tax that is in dispute in your U.S. Tax Court case, it may be because the IRS has not received your petition and has made a premature assessment. Once the government reopens, it will be necessary to contact the IRS and request that the IRS abate the premature assessment.
2019 Filing Season – Key IRS Information for Taxpayers.
The IRS has announced that the 2019 filing season will begin on January 28, 2019, for individual taxpayers. The IRS began accepting business tax returns (non-1040 series) on January 8, 2019.
- Acceptance Of Tax Returns. The IRS will accept paper and electronic individual income tax returns starting January 28, 2019.
- Issuance Of Tax Refunds. Refunds will be paid, but tax returns will continue to be subject to refund fraud, identity theft and other internal reviews as in prior years.
IRS Operations Backlogged Or Impacted From 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.
In-person service. IRS walk-in taxpayer assistance centers should reopen. This allows taxpayers to make large cash payments or get assistance for identity theft relief.
Taxpayer appointments. People with appointments related to examinations (audits), collection, Appeals or Taxpayer Advocate cases should contact the IRS to see when their cancelled meeting is to be rescheduled or if a pending meeting is to be rescheduled.
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. Taxpayers should expect a lengthy delay for a response after the IRS reopens due to a growing correspondence backlog.
An Opportunity For Taxpayers Who Owe The IRS.
Do not think that if you owe the IRS your tax problem will disappear because the IRS is not fully operational. Instead you should be utilizing this valuable time to get yourself prepared so that when IRS re-opens for business, you are ready to make the best offer or proposal to take control of your outstanding tax debts.
As a prerequisite to any proposal to the IRS, you must be in current compliance. That means if you have any outstanding income tax returns, they must be completed and submitted to IRS. Also, if you are required to make estimated tax payments, you must be current in making those payments. Fortunately, as we are now in 2019, taxpayers who expect to owe for 2018 should have their 2018 income tax returns done now so that the 2018 liability can be rolled over into any proposal and the requirement to make estimated tax payments will now start for 2019.
Remember that it is the government that was shut down – not the tax laws, so 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. Also, during the shutdown, interest does continue to accrue on all liabilities.
The take away from this – use the Federal government’s downtime to your advantage to prepare for the future.
What Should You Do?
You know that at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. we are always thinking of ways that our clients can save on taxes. If you are selected for an audit, stand up to the IRS by getting representation. Tax problems are usually a serious matter and must be handled appropriately so it’s important to that you’ve hired the best lawyer for your particular situation. The tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), Metropolitan Los Angeles (Long Beach and Ontario) and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling tax matters and can effectively represent at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies including criminal tax investigations and attempted prosecutions, undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, and unreported foreign income. Also if you are involved in cannabis, check out what our cannabis tax attorneys can do for you.