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File even if the IRS is closed

By Kay Bell · Bankrate.com
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Posted: 12 pm ET

It's looking like neither side is willing to blink in the government shutdown game of chicken.

So what does that mean to taxpayers who haven't filed their tax returns yet? Nothing.

Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Doug Shulman has made it clear that while his agency will be short-staffed if the federal government runs out of money, the April 18 deadline is still in effect.

"The American people should file their taxes on schedule as required by law," Shulman said in response to a question following his speech April 6 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. "We won't have a full complement at work, but we will be accepting tax returns."

The commissioner urged folks to e-file. That system is automated, meaning that unless there's a problem with your return, it will be processed and any refund will be issued as usual.

Paper returns, however, are another issue. Since there might not be enough staff to enter taxpayer information from those forms into the IRS computer system, processing there will be slowed at best and probably put on hold. That means any refunds associated with paper returns also won't go out.

What about the delay of refunds due people who this year paid back the first-time homebuyer credit?

That was another question Shulman fielded after his luncheon talk to reporters. And it's a question many Bankrate readers are still asking.

Although the agency said April 5 was the target date for refunds slowed because of issues associated with the original $7,500 homebuyer credit, I'm hearing from readers that the IRS missed that mark.

Shulman hedged here a bit.

"The problems have been fixed," said the commissioner. "In the next week or so all the refunds will be going out."

That is, of course, unless the refund distribution is slowed by a government shutdown.

Regardless of what happens in federal offices, you can count on getting the latest tax news and tips from Bankrate. Subscribe to the free Daily Tax Tip newsletter.

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