How The Shutdown Affects Your Tax Filing

We have all been affected by the government shutdown in one way or another. One thing you may be worrying about is how the shutdown (of a record 34 days) affects your taxes this year. Fortunately, income-tax season opened on January 28. Because of the shutdown there are some things that you need to know about filing your taxes this year.

The Deadlines Haven’t Changed

If you were hoping that you would have a little more time to file your taxes this year then you may be disappointed. You will still need to file them by April 15 in order to avoid a penalty. For those that are in Maine or Massachusetts they will have until April 16, and April 17 for those in the District of Columbia, due to a federal holiday. If you do need more time you still can file for a six month extension, which means that you will have until October 15. Even if you don’t think you will be able to pay what you owe by April 15, it’s still important that you file your taxes so you don’t incur a late filing fee.

You Can Find Out Some Information Online

Even though the government shutdown has concluded (pending February 15), you can still find out some information online that pertains to filing your taxes. In fact, if you visit the IRS, you can see updates from time to time. This website is still a good place to go if you are looking for some information that pertains to common tax questions. While some tax questions might be complex, you may still be able to find what you are looking for with a little bit of searching.

Some Individuals Can Use Free Software

Depending on your income and how complex your taxes are, you may be able to use free tax software in order to file your taxes. There are a variety of websites that you can use for tax filing if you earned less than $66,000 in 2018. Some of them may even allow you to file free state returns as well. You will need to check with each company to see what their policies are before you file. As with past years, you can also file your taxes for free by visiting www.irs.gov/freefile. If you made over the $66,000 threshold, you can visit the IRS site to use Free File forms as well. On this website you can also read free instructional booklets and download tax forms. You will find that there are a lot of answers to common questions that you may have about filing your taxes.

Getting Your Tax Information

In order to file your taxes you will need to get your W-2 or 1099 for 2018. You should expect to receive these documents by the end of January. If you don’t receive them, contact your current or former employer to make sure that they mailed these documents to the correct address. For those that are still waiting to receive these documents at the end of February, you can call 1-800-829-1040 to speak to a representative at the IRS to request a substitute. They will contact the employer, by sending them a letter on the taxpayer’s behalf, to request these documents.

If you are looking for information that is from past years, you can visit IRS’ get transcript page to get a tax summary or transcript. Remember that the IRS will not waive penalties for late tax filing even if don’t receive your 2018 tax information from your employer.

Speaking To Someone At The IRS May Be Difficult

While you can call the IRS if you are in need of assistance, it may not be that easy to actually get a hold of someone. In fact, it’s always been pretty difficult. With the government shutdown (and potentially impending one), they are even more short staffed than they have been in the past which can result in difficulties dealing with customer service inquiries. You are better off trying to find answers to your questions online before attempting to call the IRS.

Now that the government has reopened, you will need an appointment to speak to someone in person. Fortunately, most taxpayers don’t need to speak to an IRS representative in person. You still can easily get automated information by calling the IRS. In fact, most questions are answered through automated responses. If your question is more complex, you will need to get ahold of someone, but it may take you awhile so a CPA may be the better route.

Expect Delays

Government shutdown or not, there seems to be some sort of delay each year when it comes to filing your taxes. Keep this in mind and don’t wait until the last minute to file them. You are better off paying a tax professional to help you with your taxes if you aren’t 100% sure how to correctly file them. This will help you avoid unnecessary delays and make the process go as smoothly as possible despite any issues that the government is having.

About the author

Seattle CPA+John Huddleston has written extensively on tax related subjects of interest to small business owners. He is a graduate of Washington State University and the University of Washington School of Law.