The partial government shutdown has been dragging on for two and a half weeks already, affecting nearly a million federal employees across the country, numerous different agencies — including the Treasury Department which oversees the funding to the IRS — and even the national parks. As a result, tax refunds are one of those things that are affected by shutdowns.
However, this time around it appears things will be done differently. On Monday, Russell Vought, the acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, was speaking to the media when he reassuringly said that tax refunds will definitely be issued despite the shutdown, according to the Hill.
He added that the “appropriate agencies would issue further guidance” on how the IRS will be able to issue the refunds.
After taking their seats in the House last week, Democrats have announced plans to pass legislation that will fund the Treasury Department and IRS so that tax refunds to the American people can be issued this time. It is not expected to be written into permanent law, though, as it seems the Democrats are expecting some very specific results from the decision.
The move is one the Democrats hope will put pressure on the administration to force them to put an end to the already lengthy shutdown, as well as dropping their demand for a $5.7 billion piggy bank to build President Donald Trump’s long-promised wall. So far, Congress has only agreed to a $3.1 billion funding.
JUST IN: The White House will order the IRS to pay income tax refunds despite the government shutdown, a senior administration official tells @ABC News. https://t.co/ylb4XoFocD pic.twitter.com/3WkPLFPgzY— ABC News (@ABC) January 7, 2019
Previous shutdowns have seen Americans forced to wait for delayed tax refunds until the shutdown has ended.
“We have been trying to make this as painless as possible consistent with the law,” said Vought.
There are concerns that issuing the refunds is not legal during the shutdown. The Treasury Department is one of those agencies severely affected by the shutdown, with their funding having lapsed. Employees within the agency have been forced onto furlough for the past almost three weeks. In order to issue the tax refunds, those employees will be forced to return to work with no pay.
“We are committed to ensuring that taxpayers receive their refunds notwithstanding the government shutdown. I appreciate the hard work of the employees and their commitment to the taxpayers during this period,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a release, shortly after it was announced that tax filing season is due to start on January 28.
With Trump threatening that he is prepared to allow the shutdown to continue for months or even years, there is a real possibility that the shutdown could still be in full swing by the time refunds are due to be issued.