On January 15, 2019 the government invoked the Lapsed Appropriations Contingency Plan (Tax Year 2018 Filing Season). This is a plan that is updated annually and which outlines procedures for the IRS to follow when there is a temporary lapse in appropriations. As the government shutdown continues, this plan allows for the IRS to recall workers for the coming tax season. Prior to the shutdown the IRS employed 80,200 employees. Approximately 10,000 (12%) of the IRS employees have been retained during the current shutdown. The plan allows for a return to work of an additional 45% of its work force, to bring the total number of employees to 46,100.
Although the IRS will not be fully staffed, the recall of staff will allow the IRS to process both tax returns for and tax refunds to taxpayers. The opening of tax filing season is January 28, 2019. Additionally, although there are currently no IRS employees available to answer phone calls in the IRS call centers, it is anticipated that the recall of employees will allow the IRS to allocate a small number of staff to man IRS call center phone lines. However, the wait to get through to a live person on customer service phone lines is expected to be long due to the heavy call volume typical of this time of year coupled with a smaller than normal amount of staff available to answer the customer service phone lines.
Additionally, no new audits will be initiated during the partial reopening of the IRS. Audits currently in process will continue to be on hold until the IRS fully reopens.