The partial government shutdown is now in its 34th day. Despite being the longest-running federal government shutdown in history, tax season is set to proceed as normal. The 2019 tax filing season will begin on Monday, January 28, with U.S. taxpayers having until Monday, April 15 to file their annual tax returns.
According to an updated shutdown contingency plan released by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the agency intends to bring back roughly 46,000 of its more than 80,000 employees who were furloughed by the partial shutdown. According to the 132-page document, the IRS will process tax returns and refunds, but will not perform audits and other key functions until a funding agreement to reopen the government is reached.
In addition to the shutdown, the 2017 tax overhaul, the largest change to the tax code in over 30 years, has the IRS rushing to update its systems. The overhaul affects almost every tax return filed this season. The overhaul changed individuals’ tax brackets, expanded the child tax credit and eliminated or limited several niche breaks.
While taxpayers may get their refunds during the shutdown, tax professionals believe this upcoming tax season is likely to be one of the most difficult in history due to the IRS operating with limited staff and using newly updated systems. Still, experts say taxpayers should file their tax returns as soon as possible, despite the government shutdown.
Most people get help filing their taxes, either from computer software or a professional tax preparer. BBB advises taxpayers to be extra cautious when choosing a tax preparer since that person or company will have access to your personally identifiable information. Here are some BBB tips to help you find a tax preparer you can trust.
- Make sure they are properly registered. A tax preparer must obtain a preparer tax identification number (PTIN) from the IRS. Never let someone work on your taxes unless they have this number. Don’t be afraid to ask about this or other qualifications; a capable professional does not mind questions.
- Look for credentials. Anyone with a PTIN can prepare your tax forms for you, but some tax preparers have more training and qualifications than others. Enrolled agents, certified public accountants (CPAs) and attorneys have unlimited rights to represent their clients to the IRS on all matters. Other preparers can help you with forms and simple IRS matters but are limited otherwise, and they can’t help you if they didn’t prepare your form. Learn more about tax preparer credentials on the IRS website.
- Keep a watchful eye for promises. Be wary of any tax preparation service that promises larger refunds than the competition and avoid tax preparers who base their fee on a percentage of the refund. Also, be wary of “refund anticipation loans,” which can take a hefty chunk of your refund in commissions.
- Search for free tax programs. There are several free government programs that prepare taxes free of charge if you meet an income requirement; go to IRS’s Free File page for more information. Check with your state government to find out about their program.
- Tax Software and Apps. If you plan to file your tax return yourself, use tax software or an app that provides both excellent data security and good customer service. Some of the top names in tax prep software are BBB Accredited Businesses, so check with bbb.org first.