IRS will pay re­funds dur­ing shut­down

Lodi News-Sentinel - - BUSINESS - By Laura Dav­i­son

WASH­ING­TON — The In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice will is­sue re­funds to tax­pay­ers even if the U.S. gov­ern­ment shut­down ex­tends into the fil­ing sea­son, a de­ci­sion that may re­duce po­lit­i­cal pres­sure on Con­gress and Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump to reach a deal to re-open the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

“Tax re­funds will go out,” the act­ing di­rec­tor of the White House Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Bud­get, Rus­sell Vought, told re­porters at a brief­ing on Mon­day.

In pre­vi­ous shut­down con­tin­gency plans, the IRS would ac­cept tax re­turns dur­ing the fil­ing sea­son, but re­funds would be de­layed un­til the gov­ern­ment was funded. Vought said the ad­min­is­tra­tion is fix­ing what he called a prob­lem faced by past ad­min­is­tra­tions.

The de­ci­sion will come as a relief to many tax­pay­ers who file their taxes as soon as the fil­ing sea­son be­gins to claim their re­fund checks, which av­er­aged $2,899 last year. Within the first week of the 2018 fil­ing sea­son, more than 18.3 mil­lion peo­ple claimed about $12.6 bil­lion in re­funds. The IRS hasn’t yet an­nounced the start date to file tax re­turns this year, but says it’s on track to be­gin in late Jan­uary or early Fe­bru­ary.

The pol­icy change also re­moves a ma­jor po­lit­i­cal in­cen­tive for law­mak­ers and the White House to reach a deal in the com­ing weeks. If re­funds won’t be held hostage, the shut­down ef­fects will be felt much less widely, re­liev­ing the strain on Con­gress and Trump to re­solve the cur­rent im­passe about how much money to spend on a bor­der wall with Mex­ico.

If peo­ple weren’t able to get re­funds there would be “ex­cru­ci­at­ing pres­sure” on law­mak­ers to cut a deal, said Mark Ever­son, a for­mer IRS Com­mis­sioner. The calls con­gres­sional of­fices are re­ceiv­ing about the wall would morph into in­quiries about why fam­i­lies haven’t re­ceived their re­funds, he said.

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