If for some reason you’ve got questions about your taxes this week, employees of the Internal Revenue Service will be answering the phones for one more day than expected. Workers had been scheduled to be on furlough today because of the federal sequester. But the agency now says they’ve cut costs enough to keep the doors open an extra day.
That doesn’t necessarily hold true for other parts of the government. Officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services are among those who say they’ve found other ways to deal with the cuts. But many agencies are still planning unpaid days off. Most civilians at the Department of Defense are being furloughed 11 days between July and September.
Commander Leslie Hull-Ryde says those workers aren’t even supposed to check in remotely. “They cannot answer their BlackBerrys,” she says. “They cannot answer their email.”
At the Department of Housing and Urban Development, employees are still off today — their fourth of seven days this year.
The IRS is down from five days of furloughs to no more than four. In the long run, former IRS Commissioner Mark Everson says, furloughs could be more expensive for the agency than staying open. He’s now vice chairman of the tax consulting firm Alliant Group.
“You end up with fewer audits; you end up with less in the way of collection activities; you have fewer people on the phones to answer questions that taxpayers have,” Everson says.
And that means fewer tax collections overall.