The IRS Faces a Big Challenge. A Shutdown Would Make It Worse

The IRS Faces a Big Challenge. A Shutdown Would Make It Worse

REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

The Internal Revenue Service, facing the massive challenge of quickly implementing the tax cuts passed by Congress last month, would see more than half of its workers sent home under a government shutdown. A partial closure would deprive the agency of 56.5 percent of its workforce, The Washington Post reports — “just as that workforce is needed for one of its biggest jobs in decades,” and at a time when the agency is already squeezed by budget and staffing cuts.

The length of a potential shutdown would determine how disruptive it is. “A shutdown of a few days, or even a full week, may not create too much additional pressure on the IRS's ability to implement the tax law, according to tax experts,” the Post says. A prolonged shutdown, on the other hand, could complicate the already complex task of rolling out new guidelines and updating forms and software. And it could leave questions about the new law unresolved, creating confusion for businesses and other taxpayers (see below for some of those questions).

Some experts say the fallout could be minimal, though. “Very few of the regulations are really that time-sensitive — if employers implement new withholdings in March instead of February, the world does not end,” Mark Mazur, a former IRS official now with the Tax Policy Center, told the Post.