Free File 2019 is open with taxpayer protection upgrades
Shutdown could revive tax refund advance products

Where IRS offices are closed and the tax services that we're not getting during the shutdown

NYC_IRS_office_by_Matthew_Bisanz_Wikipedia-Commons
Internal Revenue Service offices nationwide, like this one in New York City, are closed due to the ongoing federal government shutdown. (Photo by Matthew Bisanz via Wikipedia Commons)

Most of us don't have personal interactions with the Internal Revenue Service. We simply do our taxes every year, send them to the federal tax collector and move on with our lives.

It's a different story in many places across the country. Those places have physical IRS offices where friends and family usually go each weekday to do their jobs.

They want the government shutdown shut down so they can get back to work and begin collecting their much-needed paychecks.

Falling numbers: In recent years, thanks to a shift to more technologically-reliant tax operations and as part of the continuing reassessments called for in the Internal Revenue Service Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998, the number of IRS workers and offices has decreased.

As of Nov. 10, 2018, the IRS reported 79,868 people on its payroll. Of those, 9,946 (or 12 percent of the workforce) were considered essential to the agency's continued operation.

That includes 8,017 employees who, according to the Treasury Department's government shutdown contingency plan issued last November (we're awaiting an updated plan as filing season is set to start), are "engaged in the protection of life and property (including law enforcement activities)."

These are the folks who, for now, are holding down as best they can the IRS fort.

UPDATE: On Jan. 15, the IRS announced it would call back more than half its staff to work without pay during this first main filing season during while it was under government shutdown rules.

IRS across the U.S.: Where are they? There's some sort of IRS facility — including, but not limited to, Taxpayer Assistance Centers, call sites to answer taxpayer questions, collection operation offices or return processing campuses — in almost every state and, of course, the District of Columbia.

The biggies are the locations that process our annual tax returns. You can find those places listed at the back of the Form 1040 instruction booklet. They are:

  • Fresno, California
  • San Francisco, California
  • Hartford, Connecticut
  • Louisville, Kentucky
  • Kansas City, Missouri
  • Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Austin, Texas
  • Ogden, Utah

Don't forget about international IRS offices to help U.S. taxpayers living in possessions and territories, as well the IRS reps often located in U.S. embassies to provide assistance to taxpayers abroad.

There's also the independent Taxpayer Advocate Service, with representatives spread across the United States.

Most of those operations, for now, are closed due to the federal government shutdown, now in its 24th day.

IRS office closure notice on IRS-dot-gov
If you want to find out if your town has an IRS office that's shuttered for now, you can go to IRS.gov and in the search box at the top of the page type "local office" and your state's name.

My "local office Texas" shows me around two dozen IRS offices in the Lone Star State.

Austin IRS office info

The info for my Austin IRS facility, shown above, provides the address, phone numbers, hours of operation and, when it's finally re-opened, a link with details on the services provided here.

Some online IRS help still available: As the online alert above indicates, the IRS is suggesting that during this closure period we turn instead to the agency's self-service, read online, offerings.

Many of those, including Free File with which eligible taxpayers can prepare and e-file at no cost their 2018 tax returns and ways to e-pay any tax due, are up and running.

Will that be enough as we face the first filing season with the many Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) provisions in effect? Probably not.

Remember, the IRS hotlines and other IRS assistance used by taxpayers are not high priority.

Even the tax professionals we hire to help us file also find their specific help lines could be affected, with agency access closed or short-staffed. That means their questions and needed tax law clarifications also are affect, going unanswered or taking longer.

But the IRS swears it will start the 2019 filing season in just two weeks, on Monday, Jan. 28, regardless of whether it has full funding.

I expect that will happen. But it's going to be a mess.

If the shutdown is still in force on Jan. 28, it will be load of fun (you do see the sarcasm font used for "fun," right?) time as fewer — and unpaid — IRS workers are around to handle the more than 150 million expected filings.

And even if the government closure is resolved soon, the IRS will be playing catch-up as it moves to get everyone back on the job.

Do you live in a town with an IRS facility? Have you seen any real-life effects from this closure? Leave a comment below and let us know how the government shutdown of your local IRS and other federal offices is affecting your community. 

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