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For information about the October 2013 IRS shutdown: click here.

(This article is about the 2011 proposed shutdown)

 

My more politically aware contacts at the IRS are totally convinced and freaked out that there will be a government shutdown within a few weeks.  And as they learned during the last government shutdown in 1995, nearly all IRS employees — Revenue Officers, Revenue Agents, are non-essential staff.  Thus, if there is a government shutdown, most IRS employees will be furloughed.

So great news, right? The IRS will be shut down. Hizzah! Hizzah!

Well, after you listen to what I have to say, you may want to reconsider those misplaced “hizzahs.” And replace them with frustrated sighs, head-shaking, and silently mouthing of the letters “W,” “T,” and “F” to your computer screen.

Shutting down the IRS  is actually terrible. Horribly, horribly, terrible. And here are four reasons why.

1. The IRS is not going away.

Anarchists: do not rejoice. All the IRS will be doing is going on a furlough. A rest, if you will.  IRS employees will go home and have time to think about things. Besides catching up on daytime TV, these employees  may think why the heck is it I am not getting paid while every congress person and everyone of their bloated staff is deemed too dang important to lay off?  Will they be bitter when they get back to work? Will morale suffer? Who will ultimately pay for a demoralized IRS? [hint: rhymes with "shaxpayers"]

2. An IRS  employee can blame nearly any delay — rightly or wrongly — on the shut-down.

So let’s flash forward to a few weeks (or months) after the furlough ends. One IRS employee is bogged down playing catch-up. Another employee is kind of bitter (see above) and decided maybe not to work so hard. When confronted why they haven’t meet a deadline on resolving a case, both employees claim the shutdown caused them to be delayed.  And let me tell you folks, as any Morale Officer in Satan’s Army can tell you,  nothing to destroys office morale  as quick as disparate treatment: Some employees working hard and others screwing off — but paid the exact same.

(For those so curious, piping in the Acapella version of the Growing Pains theme song is a close second to destroying an workplace morale)

3. Trying to get a levy or lien removed? Well good luck.

When the IRS issues liens and levies, painful things happen to taxpayers.  In fact, liens and levies are terrific motivators to get a taxpayer to hire a firm such as ours.  People gladly pay us to get liens released, withdrawn, discharged, whatever so real estate closings or refinancing can occur. We are hired to get wage levies released so people don’t become homeless.  We are hired to get money back from the IRS so businesses don’t get shut down.

But what is going to happen when the there won’t be anyone at the IRS to remove liens and levies?

Yes, on the good side, there won’t be a staff to issue new levies and liens. But what about the ones already out there?  During the last shut down, IRS group and area managers formed a skeleton crew to attempt to handle emergency release requests, and luckily the furlough only lasted four days so we never had to find out how overwhelmed they would have become.

So, if a furlough continues longer than a week,  it will still be possible to get a levy released (liens not so much). But expect a longer line — and that’s if if you know how to find where the line starts.

4. Do you have money coming back? Expect a longer wait!

No one will be around to process your tax return for 2010 if there is a IRS shutdown. Or any claims for refund.

Even e-filed returns need to be processed. Not only will the slow down in refunds affect taxpayers, but even those business who have built up their models around Americans receiving their tax refunds in the spring, like furniture and car dealers.

Conclusion

Shutting down the IRS is one of the worst things Congress can do. Maybe Congress should shut down Congress first — or at least have them only meet once every four years. Our political landscape has painted this strange scene where one of the most basic functions of government — the administration of taxes — is treated as if it is as discretionary.

UPDATE:

Submitted Comments:

“Non-Essential government employees are anyone who doesn’t work in Washington DC.”

“Congressional Democrats for not passing a budget last year have proven to be the most non-essential of them all.”

How will the government inform employees that they are furloughed? Writes S.N.: “I work for medicare… I am considered non-essential. I will receive either a standard voicemail or text message letting me know I do not need to report to work.”

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