Even an IRS shutdown brings problems [St. Joseph News-Press, Mo.]
(St. Joseph News-Press (MO) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Oct. 06--Amid the list of closed national parks and curtailed federal activities, some observers noted a lone bright spot as a result of the government shutdown.
The Internal Revenue Service has postponed audits.
But even that benefit appears to be limited. Only about 2 percent of taxpayers get audited, and the IRS will pick up where it left off when the funding impasse comes to an end.
Helen Taylor, a certified public accountant in St. Joseph, likens it to a student learning that the teacher is sick on the day of a big test.
"What's going to happen when the teacher is back in the classroom?" she said. "It just means no audits during the shutdown."
The bigger problem for CPAs and taxpayers comes with the looming Oct. 15 deadline for those who requested a six-month filing extension back in April. This hard deadline amounts to the real end of the filing season and comes with the same flurry of activity that accompanies the April 15 deadline six months earlier.
"We're very busy. It's a pretty brisk deadline," said Ms. Taylor, a principal at Taylor, Thompson & Hausman on Woodbine Road.
The Oct. 15 deadline remains in force, even though 90 percent of IRS employees are furloughed and IRS offices, including the one in St. Joseph, are closed.
Tax filers looking for help may be out of luck, and the situation won't get much better. If you thought the hold time was bad in April, imagine calling the IRS for taxpayer assistance when the government is back in business.
"Those are only going to get worse," Ms. Taylor said. "There's going to be a backlog of issue."
The IRS won't provide tax assistance in person or over the phone, although the public still can get information on the website www.irs.gov or through pre-recorded information. The IRS has indicated it will cash checks on time, but refunds for those who file by Oct. 15 will be delayed, depending on the length of the shutdown.
Essentially, the IRS will take your money but they won't give it back during the shutdown.
"It should be the IR because there is no service," said Jerry Williams, a CPA with Sumner, Carter, Hardy & Schwichtenberg, in St. Joseph.
Both during and after the shutdown, people should consider e-filing and direct deposit since any work that's computerized, rather than handled by human hands at the IRS, will probably go faster, Mr. Williams said.
He added that tax preparers might get some benefit from the delay in audits since the IRS seems to prefer making paperwork due the day before tax deadlines and Christmas Eve.
Then there's the simple hassle factor for those who are scrambling to get paperwork in order before the deadline.
Last week, Ms. Taylor's office was working with a client who needed to find some record of Social Security benefits, which are taxable. Normally, that's an easy fix.
These aren't normal times.
"We said, 'just run up to Woodbine Road, go to the Social Security office and suggest they print it off,'" she said. "They were told by the security guard that the office was closed.
"That's an example of how the shutdown hampered this particular client," she said.
Greg Kozol can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow him on Twitter: @gregkozol.
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