Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Waking the Government

Restarting the government after a two and one half week shutdown is like waking up on a weekend after you found the time to sleep in.  It doesn't happen quickly.  The websites of each the IRS and Tax Court have each posted notices about what to expect from them as they wake up and the wheels start turning again. 

The IRS has issued news releases concerning the resumption of operations following the shutdown.  They can be found here and here. The IRS is substantially backlogged.  They continued to receive returns, correspondence and information from people during the shutdown, but there was nobody to look at any of it.  As a result, they are telling taxpayers to expect substantial delays and to wait to call the IRS “if their issue is not urgent.”

The tricky part is that there is no clear explanation of what is urgent.  The IRS likely takes the position that questions concerning your refund are not urgent, but, those concerning liabilities… probably should be treated as urgent.  As the IRS resumes operations, they will resume issuing liens and levies.  Those that owe tax and wish to avoid liens or levies, should get in touch with the IRS regardless of how long they might have to wait to get through to someone.  It may take a while to get a response, but being proactive is better than having to deal with an empty bank account because you and the IRS disagreed about whether the case was urgent.

Those individuals and businesses dealing with a specific IRS agent might expect to receive a phone call to discuss the timing of any future action.  In the meantime, any previous deadlines set by the IRS should be respected unless otherwise discussed with the agent.

The United States Tax Court has posted detailed guidance on its website.  Those with trials that were scheduled during the shutdown will hear from the Court about rescheduling.  Those trials that were to start this week and later will begin as scheduled unless there was an inability to discuss the cases with the IRS.  In such cases, the Court should be advised and it will consider how best to proceed.  The notice also identifies the deadlines for taking certain actions that were/are impacted by the shutdown. 

The Tax Court notice advises, however, that any statutory filing deadlines provided in the Internal Revenue Code are not impacted by the shutdown.  That is, if you have a fixed 90 day deadline in which to file a case with the Tax Court, the 90 days still stands.  If that 90 days would have expired during the shutdown, the postmark date of any filed Petitions will govern whether the time period was satisfied.  If a Petition to the Tax Court is outside of the 90 days, it will likely mean that the case will be dismissed as filed late.

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