The U.S. federal government shutdown does not alleviate the October 15 filing deadline or other upcoming filing and payment requirements.

The current state of the government shutdown has many taxpayers questioning whether or not they are required to comply with the various federal tax filing and payment deadlines. Any attempts at contacting the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) via telephone or by visiting a service center during the shutdown will likely produce great frustration, without results, as the centers are temporarily closed. The IRS has also stopped issuing refunds, and the Tax Court has suspended its operations. Although the IRS has stopped issuing refunds, the government will continue to mail out Social Security checks, since they are funded out of an indefinite appropriation.

Additionally, during the shutdown, new levy and lien notices, automated or manually generated, will not be issued. Taxpayers may still receive levy or lien correspondence with October mailing dates printed prior to the shutdown. The IRS notes that other letters related to liens and levies—such as notifications that a taxpayer could potentially be subject to a lien or a levy at a future date—continue to be systematically generated during the appropriations lapse. If taxpayers receive such notifications, they should consider consulting with a qualified tax professional, as these notices could be indicative of future lien or levy action.

The shutdown does not provide taxpayers with a reprieve from meeting statutory deadlines; therefore, taxpayers should continue to timely file returns and remit payments as if there were no shutdown. Some key points taxpayers should keep in mind include:

  • Extended 2012 individual income tax returns are still due by October 15, 2013.
  • All other tax deadlines remain in effect for both business (including payroll) and individual tax filings.
  • Tax refunds will not be issued until normal government operations resume.
  • Anyone having an appointment with the IRS related to examinations and audits, tax collection, appeals or Taxpayer Advocate cases should assume their meetings are canceled. The IRS should be in contact to reschedule all such appointments once normal operations resume.

Taxpayers may want to file their tax returns electronically, since paper returns will not be processed until government operations resume. All payments received by the IRS will be processed when received, regardless of whether taxpayers e-file their return or mail a paper copy. Taxpayers remitting payments via the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) should print the confirmation pages to maintain proof that their payment was processed. In addition, it would be prudent to use certified mail when mailing returns or payments to the IRS.

The Tax Court has stated that while it cannot extend statutory deadlines set forth in the Internal Revenue Code, deadlines previously set by the Tax Court will be extended, with all due dates falling on or after October 1, 2013, extended by the number of days that court operations are suspended—up to a maximum extension of five days from when court operations resume.

If a taxpayer wishes to contest an assessment in Tax Court, the statute requires a petition to be filed within 90 days from the date the liability was posted. Taxpayers also have the right to obtain a hearing in response to a proposed lien or levy, provided they file the request within 30 days of the time of the mailing of their notice. Statutory deadlines such as these will not be extended due to the shutdown, and it is vital that taxpayers continue to comply with these deadlines and take steps to document that their petitions have been timely filed or their hearing requests have been timely made. Additionally, if taxpayers believe they are due a refund, all claims for refunds must be timely filed within the statute of limitations even though the IRS has ceased issuing refund checks until normal operations resume.

Other functions of the IRS that will continue to operate are: preparations for the 2013 filing season; IRS criminal law enforcement and undercover operations; and operations related to protecting ongoing bankruptcy, lien and seizure cases and to preventing lapses in the statute of limitations.