Senate Dems raise concerns about shutdown's impact on assistance to taxpayers

Senate Dems raise concerns about shutdown's impact on assistance to taxpayers
© Stefani Reynolds

A group of Senate Democrats on Thursday told Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinMIT removed Russian oligarch from board following sanctions from Treasury Department Mnuchin meets with Senate GOP to shore up ranks on Russia sanctions vote Former PepsiCo CEO being considered for World Bank chief post: report MORE that they were worried the partial government shutdown would make it hard for taxpayers to receive assistance from the IRS during the upcoming filing season.

The senators raised concerns, specifically, that the shutdown led to the closure of the Taxpayer Advocate Service's offices. The Taxpayer Advocate Service is an independent organization within the IRS that helps individuals and businesses with tax and filing issues.


"The shutdown has closed every office of the Taxpayer Advocate Service across the country at a time when families and businesses are trying to determine the taxes that they owe and resolve disagreements with the IRS," the senators said in a letter to Mnuchin.

Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenMobile providers at center of privacy storm Hillicon Valley: House chair seeks emergency briefing on wireless industry's data sharing | AG nominee to recuse himself from AT&T-Time Warner merger | Dem questions Treasury, IRS on shutdown cyber risks On The Money: Trump says he won't declare emergency 'so fast' | Shutdown poised to become longest in history | Congress approves back pay for workers | More federal unions sue over shutdown MORE (D-Ore.), and Finance Committee member Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowSenate Dems raise concerns about shutdown's impact on assistance to taxpayers Durbin signals he will run for reelection Coal supporter Manchin named top Dem on Senate Energy Committee MORE (D-Mich.), took the lead on the letter.

The IRS has received considerable attention from politicians during the shutdown. There were concerns that the agency wouldn't be able to issue refunds during the shutdown, but the Trump administration announced earlier this week that refunds would be paid if the shutdown persists into the filing season. 

The IRS said the filing season would begin on Jan. 28 and that some furloughed employees would be called back to work during that time. The agency is expected to release a filing-season shutdown contingency plan in the near future.

Democrats remain concerned that taxpayers will have challenges during the filing season even if refunds are issued.

"Taxpayers should receive their refunds in a timely manner, but taxpayers should also receive the necessary assistance to ensure that they are filing their taxes correctly and that they have advocates working on their behalf," the Senate Democrats wrote in their letter.

The senators asked Mnuchin if Taxpayer Advocate Service employees will be asked to come back to work in the shutdown plan for the forthcoming filing season. They also asked Mnuchin how Treasury plans to help taxpayers who face financial difficulties resulting from challenges filing their taxes or getting their refunds amid the shutdown. 

The House passed legislation Wednesday to fund the agency in a 240-188 vote, with eight Republicans bucking party lines to back the bill. But the White House has threatened to veto the bill because there’s no agreement “to address the border crisis.”

The government entered a partial shutdown on Dec. 22 amid an impasse between lawmakers and the White House over President TrumpDonald John TrumpVeterans groups demand end to shutdown: 'Get your act together' Brown launches tour in four early nominating states amid 2020 consideration Pence on border wall: Trump won't be ‘deterred’ by Dem ‘obstruction’ MORE's demand for $5.7 billion in border wall funding.