How Will the Government Shutdown Affect the Tax Extension Deadline?

The simple answer is that the tax extension deadline won’t be affected, and you’re still expected to file your tax return. The not-so-simple answers are to the questions about how and why this is happening, how else we’re being affected, and what we can do to help ourselves.

April 15th, 2013 was the deadline to file your 2012 tax return, but if you filed Form 4868, you were granted a six-month extension. So if you were one of those people who needed a bit of extra time to file your return, we’re getting close to the tax extension deadline. But what’s all this about the government being shut down? Even if you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve certainly heard something about the congressional standstill that occurred on October 1st.

We are currently a week into a government shutdown, which came as a result of the failure of the Republican and Democratic parties to reach a budget decision regarding federal funding. Unlike our calendar year, which begins on January 1st, America’s fiscal year runs from October 1st to September 30th, and as such the federal budget is reevaluated and set at this time every year. This October 1st was especially notable, as it was the birthdate for the rollout of President Obama’s health care reform, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This has been a highly controversial program, seemingly with just as many people for as against its creation.

Currently, the Democrats control the Senate, the upper house of Congress, and the Republicans control the House of Representatives, the lower house. With regard to this year’s budget, the House Republicans passed bills to the Senate that funded the government budget on the condition that funding for the health care reform was delayed for a year. When this bill arrived at the Senate, the Democrats rejected it twice, as they’ve stood firmly in their belief in Obama’s reform. Each side has something they want—the Republicans want to get rid of Obamacare, and the Democrats want to the debt ceiling to be raised—but neither seems willing to compromise, and the resulting gridlock has sent most “non-essential” government employees home from work.

So what does this have to do with your tax extension deadline? Well, for starters, the Internal Revenue Service is evidently “non-essential,” and only 9% of its staff (approximately 8,750 of 95,000 people) are currently at work. That means that even though they’re not working even close to full capacity, there won’t be any delays in their expectations of you to deliver. “All taxpayers should continue to meet their tax obligations,” explains the IRS’s website. For those of us who file our own taxes, but may need some assistance along the way, we’re in a particularly rough spot—all IRS customer service employees are out of work, as are the people who work for the Taxpayer Advocate Service, an outlet for consumer complaints and concerns. The inability to reach out to federal help agents may require Americans to seek professional help to get the job done.

Tax returns will still be expected to be filed, and electronic submissions will be processed automatically, while the paper returns will pile up and wait for staff to come in and process them. And just because you are still expected to file your return by the tax extension deadline, don’t think that means you’ll be getting the refund you’ve been waiting for on time. Until operations return to normal, the IRS says that no refunds will be issued. The only break taxpayers are getting in lieu of this government shutdown is that if you were about to get audited, that’s been put on hold too, because IRS agents can’t come audit you if they’re not at work!

Although the federal government isn’t able to help you navigate through all of your paperwork and questions, we’re still here for you at DeFreitas and Minsky Certified Public Accountants! If you’re among the 93% of Americans who usually file by the tax extension deadline, call us or stop by to see how we can help you file on time to avoid paying late fees and fines!

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