IRS Opens Tax Season, Resumes Operations Following Shutdown: Here’s What To Expect

Internal Revenue Service building in Washington, D.C...

Internal Revenue Service building in Washington, D.C…LightRocket via Getty Images

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was open for business on the first day of tax season, Monday, January 28, 2019. With the government shutdown over (at least for now), the IRS is trying to get back to normal. IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig assured taxpayers, “The IRS will be doing everything it can to have a smooth filing season.”

Outside of processing tax returns, there is still work to be done. There is a backlog of correspondence and appointments that accumulated during the shutdown (more here) to be tackled in the midst of an already busy tax season. The IRS has released some information for taxpayers and tax professionals about operations. Here’s what you need to know:

Audits. Auditors are currently reviewing mail they have received and will reach out to taxpayers and tax professionals to reschedule appointments or otherwise resume examinations. If you’ve been holding onto letters or materials that your auditor needs, you should go ahead and send that information. If you’ve missed a window or due date during the shutdown, you should reach out to the auditor to discuss your options. For more, check out the IRS Frequently Asked Questions for audits.

Payments, Penalty and Interest. The shutdown did not change due dates: Taxpayers were still required to file and pay on time or be subject to penalty and interest. However, if you normally make deposits and payments in-person at an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center and couldn’t because of the shutdown, you can file a request to have the penalty abated for reasonable cause. 

Collections. Some collections-related activities continued throughout the shutdown or resumed immediately afterward. With respect to specific collections issues, here’s what to do:

  • In cases where the statute of limitations was nearing expiration, the IRS may have issued a Statutory Notice of Deficiency to protect the government’s interest. If you received a Notice and you disagree with the adjustments, you have 90 days to petition the Tax Court; if you agree with the changes, you can just sign and return the form.  
  • If you were working with a revenue officer on setting up an installment agreement, the officer should be reaching out to you shortly to resume discussions. Similarly, if you had an appointment scheduled with a revenue officer during the shutdown, that appointment will be rescheduled. And if you’ve been holding onto to payment or materials that your revenue officer needs, you should go ahead and send that information.
  • If you have submitted a request for a Collection Due Process (CDP) hearing but have not received a response, expect to be contacted soon.
  • If you received a Notice of Levy, you should call the number provided on the notice to resolve the outstanding issue. If you filed a notice of discharge for a lien and have an imminent closing or other pressing need, refer to Publication 4235 (downloads as a pdf) to find your local Collection Advisory Office. You can also see it here:
  • If your case is assigned to a private debt collector, expect those operations to resume no later than Friday, February 1, 2019. If you have a payment arrangement, keep making payments.
  • If your passport application was denied because of delinquent tax debt, call the IRS at 1.855.519.4965 (international callers, dial 1.267.941.1004). Note that this is not the normal IRS phone number. Visit the passport section of the IRS website for more information.

For more collections info, check out the IRS Frequently Asked Questions for collections. 

Tax Court. The United States Tax Court shut down operations as of Friday, December 28, 2018, at 11:59 p.m., and some trial sessions were canceled. The Tax Court will inform taxpayers who had cases on the canceled trial sessions of their new trial dates. If you have a pending petition, you’ll need to be patient as those are sorted (and served). In the meantime, the IRS says it will only make assessments when the statute of limitations is about to expire. If there’s still time to spare, the IRS will delay defaulting those Notices while the Tax Court works through its backlog. For more Tax Court info, check out the IRS website update page and the US Tax Court website.

Tax Filing. The 2019 tax filing season opened on January 28, 2019. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) expects to process more than 150 million individual tax returns for the 2018 tax year. According to the agency, “through mid-day Monday, the IRS had already received several million tax returns during the busy opening hours.” According to Commissioner Rettig, “Taxpayers can minimize errors and speed refunds by using e-file and IRS Free File along with direct deposit.”

Tax Refunds. The IRS expects to issue refunds beginning the first week of February and will pay many refunds by mid- to late February as in previous years. You can check “Where’s My Refund?” for updates, and you can see my best guesses for when you can expect your tax refunds here.

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