Shutdown May Be Over — For Now — But Getting Back to Normal at IRS Could Take 18 Months

Even though the shutdown of the federal government is over, the impact and consequences of the 35-day impasse will not go away so quickly, as the fallout at one federal agency very important to the credit and collection industry is revealing.

It could take as long as 18 months for operations at the Internal Revenue Service to return to normal, according to a published report, as the agency is buried in millions of unanswered letters, needs to hire thousands of workers to help answer phones for this tax filing season, and is weeks behind on training employees about new changes to the tax code that went into effect this year.

The IRS had previously promised to begin processing tax returns and mailing out refund checks on Jan. 28, as originally scheduled before the shutdown went into effect in late December.

There as many as five million pieces of mail that are currently unanswered because the agency’s assistance centers were closed during the shutdown.

About 30,000 furloughed IRS employees had been ordered back to work during the shutdown, but 8,000 of them claimed a hardship exemption about returning to work while not being paid and an additional 6,000 employees were unable to be located, according to the report.

The deal reached on Friday will fund the federal government through Feb. 15, in the hopes of reaching a longer-term agreement between Congress and the Trump administration to fund the government for a longer term.

While back to work, the IRS does have some IT problems it may also have to deal with. The agency has been losing about 25 IT employees per week since the shutdown began, with many of those individuals finding new jobs outside of the federal government.

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