IRS Offices Slowly Shutting Down Due to the Coronavirus
April 09, 2020 in covid-19 tax relief, IRS Info
The spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has shut down so much of America. President Donald Trump has issued an emergency declaration due to the coronavirus outbreak, and governors in many states have issued stay-at-home orders and ordered non-essential business to close. Many businesses across the United States have adjusted their operations due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. And according to a recent notice posted on the Internal Revenue Service website, the IRS is joining these businesses as they shut down some IRS call centers and a number of IRS services.
The Coronavirus Pandemic and Temporary IRS Closures
The notice on the IRS website states, “In response to the national emergency and to protect our employees, America’s taxpayers, communities and our partners, the IRS has temporarily closed all Taxpayer Assistance Centers and discontinued face-to-face service throughout the country until further notice. The IRS is continuing to process federal tax returns, issue refunds, and help taxpayers to the greatest extent possible.” The IRS echoed this sentiment in a tweet they posted on March 25, 2020, and added that, “nearly every tax issue can now be resolved online.”
So, according to this notice, the IRS will still be processing federal income tax returns and issuing refunds, but many IRS services are currently closed, including a variety of taxpayer assistance services. Since posting this initial notice the IRS has confirmed that the following taxpayer assistance services are currently shut down due to staff limitations: Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs), the Practitioner Priority Service (PPS) line, the e-Services Help Desk line, the e-Services FIRE help desk, and the e-Services AIR system help desk. The IRS advises that taxpayers who need IRS assistance with a tax issue consult the resources at IRS.gov.
In addition to suspending these assistance services, the IRS has confirmed that they’ve shut down a number of other services. Acceptance of new Income Verification Express Services (IVES) requests is temporarily suspended, most IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program sites are closed, in-person Social Security offices are closed, and all AARP Foundation Tax-Aide services are closed.
The suspension of these federal government services is troublesome for taxpayers who have tax issues and need assistance from the IRS. However, there is a silver lining for some in the IRS closures: many tax collection and enforcement actions are also affected. IRS audits are currently on hold and the IRS is offering relief for some types of collection. For example, IRS Installment Agreement payments can be voluntarily suspended and levies may be postponed.
Coronavirus Stimulus Checks and IRS Operations
If you’re wondering whether these IRS closures will affect your CARES Act stimulus check from the Treasury Department, know that it does not seem like they will. The official IRS website currently says that the IRS will start sending economic impact payments to most Americans in April through information they have on file (such as banking information for direct deposit and mailing addresses for paper checks). Their website also says that they will be setting up a portal for taxpayers to share their direct deposit information for their stimulus checks.
The IRS has stated that they will be sharing more details about economic impact payments as soon as they are available, but they have also stated that they are not answering any questions about coronavirus stimulus checks or the stimulus package at this time. The IRS has advised taxpayers to follow them on social media for the most up-to-date information regarding stimulus payments. The IRS has also been advising taxpayers to be mindful of tax scams at this time. The IRS has explicitly stated that they will not be calling or emailing anyone to ask for their bank account information, their direct deposit information, their Social Security number, or any other information potentially related to stimulus checks. So be aware that anyone who calls or emails you requesting this information is not the IRS.
While the sweeping closures at the IRS will likely make this year’s extended tax filing season more challenging, it’s important to remember that this situation is temporary. Eventually, things will go back to normal and taxpayers will be able to access the normal IRS services. In the meantime, you can stay informed on the current IRS changes by visiting their regularly updated Coronavirus Tax Relief page.