Rest easy, America. Sequestration will not affect your tax refund.
With the March 1 deadline for implementation of $85 million in automatic across-the-board spending cuts bearing down, there was concern as to how millions of 1040 forms could be processed if the Internal Revenue Service had to send some of its employees home for a while.
To address those concerns within the agency, on Feb. 28, just hours before the sequestration deadline arrived, Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller sent an email to all IRS employees telling them that they would not be furloughed until after most of 2012's tax returns are received.
The National Society of Accountants reports that Miller told workers that "despite our current and planned efforts to cut expenses, the reality is that our greatest expense, by far, is employee pay." That means furloughs will be necessary if sequestration drags on.
But to ensure that IRS employees "continue to deliver for the nation's taxpayers," Miller said in the email that the IRS will wait until after tax filing season before implementing the temporary layoff of its workers.
In addition, the IRS also plans to continue its hiring freeze and cut costs in areas such as travel, training, facilities and supplies.
Following Miller's communication with his employees, the National Treasury Employees Union, or NTEU, elaborated on the IRS furlough situation.
"We have had informal discussions with the agency about this matter and we will engage in bargaining when the formal notice of furlough is provided," said NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley in a statement.
"None of these developments is good for the agency, for employees or for taxpayers," said Kelley, whose organization is the largest independent federal union, representing 150,000 employees in 31 agencies and departments.
Kelley also noted that because of prior budget cuts, this filing season the IRS has 5,000 fewer employees than just two years ago.
But those IRS employees who are still there will be on the job during this hectic time of the tax year.
So take a breath, taxpayers, and work on your returns at your own pace. The IRS will be around through April 15 to take care of them.
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Veteran contributing editor Kay Bell is the author of the book "The Truth About Paying Fewer Taxes" and a co-author of the e-book "Future Millionaires' Guidebook."