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No IRS audits or taxpayer assistance

By Kay Bell ·
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Posted: 6 pm ET

And so it begins. The House, Senate and White House are still fighting over how to fund the federal government, meaning that hundreds of thousands of federal workers are officially furloughed.

Only those whose jobs are deemed essential by their departments are working for free today, since technically there's no money to cover their paychecks.

The Internal Revenue Service has put together a contingency plan, outlining which of its employees are necessary during the first government shutdown in 17 years. The 61-page document calls for only around 9 percent of the approximately 95,000 IRS employees to come to work.

No audits or answers to tax questions

Among those employees who aren't deemed essential are tax examiners or, as you and I refer to them, the folks who audit tax returns. This means, says the Treasury Department, that if you had an appointment scheduled today with an IRS employee to answer questions about your 1040, that meeting is cancelled. When the government is up and running again, the IRS will get in touch to reschedule.

The same is true, according to the Treasury, for appointments with IRS agents who handle appeals and collections, as well Taxpayer Advocate Service staff.

And if you're still working on your 2012 tax return for which you got an extension, don't expect any help from the IRS if you have questions. Although that Form 1040 is still due by Oct. 15, Taxpayer Assistance Centers are closed, and no one is around to answer taxpayer questions by phone.

A call to the IRS's toll-free line at (800) 829-1040 announces that, "Due to the current budget situation, all IRS offices are closed. ... Many self-service tools are available," however, including the agency's website.

Some still working

So just who is at work today for the IRS? The contingency plan says those folks whose jobs are "necessary for the protection of government property" are expected to report.

This covers IRS employees who process tax payments or are involved with certain computer operations (such as revenue collections); staff who are part of criminal law enforcement and undercover operations; and personnel who deal with bankruptcy, liens and tax seizure cases. Yeah, all the dreaded tax services are essential.

IRS staff also will report to their offices if they are working on updates to 2013 tax forms or software to process those returns.

Short-term plan only

Finally, the IRS says its contingency plan only is equipped to deal with a short-lived government shutdown. If federal offices are closed for more than five days, the agency will re-evaluate its needs and make personnel adjustments.

Let's hope a shutdown-plan revision won't be necessary.

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You also can follow me on Twitter: @taxtweet.

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."

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