IRS recalls 60% of workers to handle tax refunds amid partial shutdown

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is recalling tens of thousands of workers as tax season begins, despite an ongoing partial government shutdown.

The tax agency said on Tuesday it is recalling 46,000 workers – roughly 60 percent of its staff – back to its offices to handle tax refunds. The workers will not be paid.

Earlier this month, the Trump administration said it would issue refunds regardless of how long the government shutdown – now the longest in U.S. history – carried on. The decision was considered a reversal of a traditional policy whereby Americans are allowed to pay taxes during a shutdown, but refunds are not issued.

Many American households rely on their annual tax refunds to pay bills, among other things. More than 70 percent of Americans receive money back from the IRS during tax season. Last year, the average refund was more than $2,890, according to the agency.

However, some experts have expressed concern that operating with a limited staff could still impact taxpayers’ ability to file accurately. Worries include the fact that individuals may not be able to contact the agency regarding questions over the new law, or new documents. The agency has also yet to issue clarification on certain aspects of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that will impact how some people and businesses file.

Unexpected problems are also prone to pop up at the agency, which has been a lightning rod for having antiquated systems. Last year, for example, the agency delayed the original April deadline by one day after a system failure crashed the site. It has also disclosed in recent years that taxpayer accounts were compromised.


Meanwhile, the IRS is already working with reduced funding and staff levels, without the complications added by the government shutdown: The IRS lost about 18,000 full-time positions between 2010 and the start of 2018. In 2017 alone, 6,801 permanent jobs were lost.

The first day Americans can file their taxes is Jan. 28.