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How will IRS’ lack of staff and tax refund funds affect Va. taxpayers, ask US Sens. Warner and Kaine

Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin asking how Virginia taxpayers will be affected by the government shutdown, which has left the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) short-staffed and potentially underprepared for the beginning of the 2019 tax-filing season.

Funding for the IRS lapsed on December 22, 2018, leaving the agency to function on a contingency plan that provides some flexibility on operations during the first five days of a government shutdown. Now in the 17th day and nearing the 2019 tax-filing season that begins on January 29th, Sens. Warner and Kaine are asking for answers on how the IRS would accept and process tax returns, issue refunds, and address taxpayer correspondence.

“According to the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Lapse Appropriations Contingency Plan, only 12.5 percent of the IRS’s workforce is authorized to work during a shutdown during a non-filing season and as a result, we understand the Treasury Department has furloughed roughly 70,000 IRS civil servants. While the contingency plan includes some flexibility in determining how the Department can respond to a lapse in government funding that continues beyond five business days, the issue of tax refunds is considered a ‘non-excepted activity,’ meaning that the funding lapse has led the IRS to stop issuing tax refunds in addition to other needed taxpayer services,” wrote the Senators.

Many hardworking families are counting on their tax refunds to catch up on bills or pay down their debt. However, with the IRS short-staffed during the government shutdown, many Virginia families are at risk of receiving a delayed return that could impact their personal finances.

“The lapse in government funding has and will continue to pose other problems for taxpayers. Reports indicate many Americans are experiencing delays in financing or refinancing mortgages and other loans because of lenders inability to obtain tax transcripts to verify incomes for loans,” continued the Senators. “The American people deserve clarity during these uncertain times, particularly as it relates to their ability to afford their basic needs.”

Sens. Warner and Kaine have been outspoken against President Trump’s use of a government shutdown as a negotiating tactic. Sens. Warner and Kaine have called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to hold a vote on a House-passed spending bill that would reopen the government and allow hundreds of thousands of federal employees and contractors to go back to work.

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