The Internal Revenue Service, perhaps the agency in contact with the widest swath of the citizenry, needed a little extra time to rev up again when the government reopened on Thursday.
“The public may experience longer wait times or limited service as we take steps to bring employees back to work and resume all operations,” the agency noted on a website that had been frozen for 16 days. “High telephone demand is expected and many IRS walk-in offices around the country may open at staggered times on Oct. 17 and 18.”
During the shutdown, the IRS continued “as many automated processes as possible, including accepting returns and processing payments.” But it did not issue refunds. “As a reminder, any paper return received during the shutdown and postmarked by the due date will be considered timely filed by the IRS,” the agency said.
As of Thursday, IRS reported that its fax machines related to automated legal reporting requirements were back online and providing senders with confirmation of receipt. “The IRS has begun processing tax returns received since Oct. 1, along with related refunds,” the agency stated. “We have also begun to respond to paper correspondence, transcript requests and authorization forms received during the shutdown from third parties. However initial delays can be expected as the IRS resumes full operations and works through backlogged inventory.”
The need for extra time to resume operations and open call centers was foreseen by the National Treasury Employees Union, whose president, Colleen Kelley, said in a Thursday statement, “I expect that the IRS will be slammed with calls over the next few days. Now, federal employees are being asked to step up and try to undo the harm.”