Also on the sequester chopping block: IRS audits

Brown was among hundreds of federal employees from around the country gathered in Washington this week for the National Treasury Employees Union’s (NTEU) annual conference. The organization, which represents some 150,000 employees across 31 agencies, is calling on Congress to take steps to stop the sequester.

Brown acknowledged that taxpayers might not mind decreased chances that their returns would face an audit. But she said any workforce reduction would have a negative impact on U.S. finances, since the IRS accounts for 93 percent of the nation’s revenue.

“If we’re not there, we can’t help to bring in this money for the country,” she said.

The NTEU said the sequester would also delay refunds for taxpayers, which could stifle economic activity. Taxpayers with questions would also face longer wait-times on the IRS hotline. Identity theft cases would be put on hold until after tax season, leading to lost revenue, the union said.

“If you cut the IRS, you increase the deficit,” union president Colleen Kelley said. “There’s no way around that." 

The IRS has not made public the details of its plan to operate under sequestration cuts, and did not immediately respond to a query Tuesday afternoon.

Furloughs of just one day a pay period could have devastating effects on federal workers, Brown said. She estimated that could result in the loss of $300 a month for many workers.

“That’s a grocery bill,” she said. “That’s part of a house payment."

Eighty-two percent of federal workers said furloughs would make it difficult to pay for their housing, utilities and food expenses, according to an NTEU survey of more than 2,000 workers from around the country.