Mnuchin’s Congressional Testimony Requested on Treasury, IRS Partial Shutdown

The House’s top tax writer has invited Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to testify next week regarding the partial government shutdown’s impact on taxpayers. Federal agencies, including Treasury and the IRS, have been partially shut down since December 22, 2018.

House Ways and Means Hearing

The House Ways and Means Committee has scheduled a January 24 hearing to examine how the government shutdown has affected Treasury as well as taxpayers, according to a January 17 press release from Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass. The hearing is expected to provide Mnuchin an opportunity to brief Congress on the following items:

  •  how Treasury intends to move forward with the tax filing season during the shutdown;
  •  the more than 70,000 furloughed Treasury and IRS employees who have already missed a paycheck; and
  •  the difficulties taxpayers are facing while seeking assistance from Treasury during the interruption in taxpayer services.

2019 Tax Filing Season

IRS Commissioner Charles “Chuck” Rettig was expected on January 16 to brief Neal and Ways and Means Democrats on the government shutdown’s expected impact on the upcoming filing season, but the meeting did not occur. Rettig canceled his appearance, according to Neal, but reportedly offered to have two IRS deputy commissioners attend instead, to which Democrats declined.

Earlier this month, Neal sent a letter to Rettig and Mnuchin requesting details on IRS operations during the partial government shutdown. The 2019 tax filing season is scheduled to officially begin on January 28.

To that end, the IRS released a revised shutdown contingency plan earlier this week. However, only 57.4 percent of IRS employees are expected to work during the 2019 tax filing season, according to the IRS. Optimism continues to diminish on Capitol Hill for a smooth tax filing season amidst the ongoing partial government shutdown.

Additionally, several lawmakers have expressed criticism of the updated IRS Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Lapsed Appropriations Contingency Plan. Specifically, Senate Finance Committee (SFC) ranking member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has voiced concern over whether there will be IRS delays in issuing refunds.

Although the IRS has confirmed it will proceed with issuing refunds in accordance with a White House directive, the Service has not stated its position on the possibility of delays. “Over half of IRS’s employees are being called back to work without pay, and the agency still can’t tell me whether refunds will be delayed. This is unacceptable and an insult to every American taxpayer and furloughed worker,” Wyden said on Twitter.

However, several Republican lawmakers are expressing confidence in the IRS’s ability to efficiently handle the 2019 tax filing season with only half of its workforce. “I’m assured that that’s enough to get the refunds done,” SFC Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said.

By Jessica Jeane, Senior News Editor

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