Tax Day looms in face of possible government shutdown

A crumpled tax form

Bob Moon: Back to the pressing matter of a government shutdown by week's end. That could coincide with Tax Day, which, this year -- for all you procrastinators -- falls on Monday, April 18th.

Now, in a shutdown, lots of federal workers get furloughed and, yes, that includes the IRS. As the budget stalemate continues, we wondered: Is the Tax Man an essential employee? From Washington, Marketplace's David Gura reports.


David Gura: Thomas Cooke teaches tax law at Georgetown University. He says that if the government shuts down, so does the IRS.

Thomas Cooke: I will tell you that this couldn't happen at a worse possible time.

Taxpayers routinely rely on the IRS to answer their questions and give them advice.

Cooke: Your ability to get some help, either on the telephone, or in person, face-to-face, will be seriously limited.

And what about refunds? This morning, the White House said taxpayers who file forms electronically probably would get them on time. But what about everyone else?

Patricia Thompson: I would certainly not recommend preparing tax returns by hand.

That's Patricia Thompson, a CPA in Providence, R.I. She says the advantage to using e-file is it checks to make sure your Social Security number is right and your numbers add up. Electronic filing has become the new norm, according to the IRS. Almost 100 million taxpayers used e-file last year.

Thompson: And if there are any issues based on its internal checking, then it's going to be bounced, and a notice will go out, or it could even be rejected before it's accepted.

Thomas Cooke says the last few months have been frustrating. Congress waited until the 11th hour to decide what to do with the so-called Bush-era tax cuts. While they debated, the IRS couldn't even print forms.

Cooke: This was a nightmare. I could never, at any point during the fall semester, tell the students what the law was, affirmatively, for that very year.

Professor Cooke may be changing his syllabus again.

In Washington, I'm David Gura for Marketplace.

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.

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