White House says tax refunds ‘will go out’ but tax professionals say be prepared

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — If you visit the Internal Revenue Service website, you'll see an alert that reads, "Due to the current budget situation, all IRS offices are closed."

The message taxpayers hear if they call the IRS states, "Live telephone assistance is not available at this time, normal operations will resume as soon as possible."

But on Monday, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, Russell Vought, told reporters on Monday that the Trump administration is working to make the "shutdown as painless as possible," adding that tax "refunds will go out."

The administration is seeking to avoid a delay in payouts of tax refunds to millions of Americans who are owed money.

Kenneth Herron worked for the IRS for 21 years before starting his tax preparation company, Herron and Associates Tax Services, so he's been through shutdowns before.

WREG asked, "If I need to contact the IRS now, due to previous business, what should I do?"

Herron replied, "Wait. The IRS is officially shutdown, those call centers, no one is there working."

However, since irs.gov is up and running, taxpayers can handle some tax business through the website.

Herron says despite the shutdown, automated payments will continue and taxpayers can also mail payments.

If filing season opens and the government remains shutdown, taxpayers can technically still file returns.

The online alert reads, "Under federal law, all tax payment and filing remain in effect during this period."

However, Herron says filing a return could be problematic.

"You can file a return, it may be incomplete, based on the budget not being finalized."

Which may mean having to file an amended return later, because Herron says the budget literally directs IRS operations, including everything from tax forms to software.

Herron explained, "The budget tells the IRS how to configure training for the employees, it tells them how to configure the tax returns, the actual forms, it also tells them how to configure their computers to process the tax returns."

In addition, if taxpayers file under a shutdown, they still will not get a refund if its due, Herron said, though the White House's statement Monday contradicts that.

"Refunds won't come until afterwards, so it could be a long time in getting refunds this year," says Herron.

For many taxpayers in the Mid-South, refunds represent the largest chunk of money they'll see all year.

"They depend on it, they're looking for it, they want their money, and the longer this shutdown continues, the longer they'll have to wait."

Herron says regardless of when the government re-opens, taxpayers should anticipate challenges and delays.

In addition to issues related to the shutdown, the government is also set to implement changes related to the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

The law not only changed things like credits and deductions but revised hundreds of tax forms.

Note: This story has been updated to reflect the White House's statement that tax refunds will go out.

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