January 11,2019

Press Contact:

Rachel McCleery (202) 224-4515

Wyden Urges Treasury, IRS to Protect Taxpayers from Consequences of Trump Shutdown

IRS is operating with limited staff, which could cause refund delays and leave taxpayers vulnerable to identity theft during the 2019 filing season

Washington, D.C. – Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today asked Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig for details on how the Trump shutdown is impacting taxpayer assistance, cybersecurity practices and IRS operations overall. 

Treasury and IRS have informed the Senate Finance Committee that a shutdown contingency plan outlining IRS’ operating procedures will be released soon. A bipartisan briefing for Senate Finance Committee staff with senior Treasury and IRS officials is expected to follow the release of that plan.  

Wyden asked for answers to the following questions in a letter to Secretary Mnuchin and Commissioner Rettig:

(1)    Will taxpayers’ refunds be delayed as a result of the shutdown? If so, by how many days or weeks on average?

(2)    Will IRS be able to hire seasonal employees to help with the timely processing of tax returns? If not – or if the shutdown limits how many seasonal employees IRS can hire – what measures will be taken to ensure delays do not occur?

(3)    Will IRS be able to process paper returns and issue tax refunds without a delay for taxpayers, like seniors and low-income families, without access to electronic filing? 

(4)    Will taxpayers who require IRS call assistance to complete their returns get to speak to a live person to have their questions answered in a timely way?

(5)    Is there increased risk of taxpayer ID theft if IRS tries to maintain normal operations during a shutdown? For example, if IRS is working with a skeleton staff as a result of the shutdown, is there an elevated risk that cyber criminals filing fraudulent returns with stolen taxpayer identities will be able to steal taxpayers’ refunds? Will IRS be able to detect, let alone thwart, these fraudulent attempts? 

(6)    What about fraudulent tax return preparers who attempt to over-claim tax benefits on behalf of their clients? Or unscrupulous preparers who attempt to charge their clients usurious rates of interest in return for receiving their tax refunds right away? Will the shutdown hurt IRS efforts to police such practices?

(7)    Will the IRS continue to send automatic computer-generated collection and audit notices to taxpayers? How will the IRS alleviate the concerns of taxpayers who have responded to collection and audit notices but, due to the shutdown, not received any notification from the IRS? Further, how will the IRS adjust the deadlines imposed on taxpayers for responding to collection and audit notices, to ensure taxpayers are not penalized only because the shutdown is preventing the IRS from processing their responses?

A copy of the full letter can be found here.