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How will the shutdown affect your tax refund?

Jeanie Ahn
Senior Producer/Reporter

The government shutdown continues as tax season is quickly approaching and we’re hearing lots of questions from viewers about when they can expect their tax refunds.

As part of our Yahoo Finance No-Spend Challenge, one of our viewers, Candace Harmon, wrote us to share how difficult it is to save for a family of four. Like millions of American families, she’s counting on the tax refund to pay off of her loans and start saving more.

But when can you start filing? And what types of delays can you expect?

In previous government shutdowns, tax refunds were on hold. But earlier this week, the IRS confirmed that filing season starts on Jan. 28 for individual electronic filing. That’s a day earlier than it began in 2018. In a statement issued with the press release, IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig announced: “We are committed to ensuring that taxpayers receive their refunds notwithstanding the government shutdown. I appreciate the hard work of the employees and their commitment to the taxpayers during this period.”

It may be hard to believe that your refund won’t be delayed as most of their employees have been furloughed and only 12% of the IRS staff is currently working. But workers are expected to be recalled closer to the start of the filing season.

“With the colliding of the shutdown and tax changes in effect, we’re expecting the most heightened tax season in 30 years,” says Rebecca Walser, a certified financial planner and licensed tax attorney. For those that have open cases with the IRS and need direct contact for their matters to be resolved, Walser says the best you can do is to keep a record of all the dates and times you’ve reached out but have been unable to get a response.

Many of the accountants Yahoo Finance reached out to agreed that this year’s filing season will be met with a lot of frustration, as many of the new changes that rolled out with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will go into effect with this filing season.

Some of the federal forms have not caught up to the changes and are still awaiting final legislation, making it difficult for tax software companies to update their systems — which in turn makes it impossible for tax professionals who are trying to prepare their clients returns ahead of the Jan. 28 filing date.

John Lieberman, a New York-based accountant, is telling his clients to expect at least a week of delays. For his clients with a relatively straightforward and simple returns, he’s optimistic for a refund within two to three weeks, but for more complicated returns, it’s more realistic to expect delays of at least one week.

Based on slower response times of auditors, Lieberman says that response times from the IRS on many tax cases have slowed down significantly. The same tax situation for one of his clients that would’ve typically seen a 6- to 8-week resolution, will now take at least 90 days for a response from the IRS.

Keep sending us your questions at moneyquestions@yahoo.com and we’ll do our best to answer them  right here on Yahoo Finance.

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