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Government shutdown may delay tax refunds

Posted at 6:27 PM, Jan 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-04 23:17:40-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The Internal Revenue Service, like many other government agencies, is operating on a skeleton staff as the government shutdown continues.

If the shutdown continues into the tax filing season, the IRS could bring staffing back in, but, it still won't issue refunds. That is considered a less-than-essential activity, according to the agency's shutdown plan.

During a shutdown, the IRS typically doesn't perform audits or payout refunds.

"However you feel about the political controversy that's happening in Washington right now the fact that you're not going to be able to have access to funds before this controversy you were expecting to receive... I don't think that's acceptable," one taxpayer said.

The agency is currently operating with around 12 percent of its workforce.

A prolonged shutdown could force you to wait longer than usual for refund checks. Making matters worse, people who need the refunds, are typically among the first to file.

As of Friday, the IRS has not announced when people can start submitting their tax returns, but a delay doesn't mean an extension if you owe money.

"If you owe money you're still going to have a deadline, and they expect it to be paid on time," financial adviser Jason Baucom said.

If you are expecting a refund, the first thing experts say you should do is to adjust your plans now.

"I would definitely tell them don't bank on it right away. Have something in place, an emergency fund, to bridge the gap until you actually get that refund," Baucom said.

Coming off the holidays, a lot of people rely on refunds to pay off credit cards, but pay close attention to when those payments are due. Some companies may give you an extension, but not all of them will give a pass.

"Regarding bill collecting, if you owe your creditors money they're still going to come after you. They don't care about your circumstances," Baucom said.

There are tax companies out there, like Liberty Tax Service, that issue cash advances. That means they will pay you your refund within 24 to 48 hours.

The IRS is allowed to bring in more workers as tax season approaches, according to reports. That could mean refunds will go out faster when the agency does start sending them.

"The refund is going to come. We know it's going to come eventually, but the timetable is uncertain," Baucom said.

The good news is, more money could be coming your way.

According to Forbes, the average refund in 2019 is expected to be 26 percent higher than last year.