The IRS is still collecting taxes during the government shutdown, but it isn't sending out refunds — and it's also stopped complying with a subpoena to turn over documents to members of Congress who are investigating the agency's targeting of tea party groups.
Both the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the Ways and Means Committee have stopped getting documents from the IRS.
"The IRS has indicated to the committee that their furlough decisions will affect the agency's responsiveness to committee requests, including the outstanding subpoena," said Ali Ahmad, a spokesman for the oversight committee.
The government shutdown, which began Tuesday morning, has sent an estimated 800,000 employees home government-wide, including more than 85,000 IRS employees, according to the agency's contingency plan. That leaves just slightly more than 9 percent of the IRS's staff on the job.
That's too few to process refunds, but that does not let taxpayers out of their obligations.
"Individuals and businesses should keep filing their tax returns and making deposits with the IRS, as they are required to do so by law," the agency said in its guidance for taxpayers. "The IRS will accept and process all tax returns with payments, but will be unable to issue refunds during this time."
An important deadline is looming: taxpayers who requested a six-month extension on their 2012 tax returns are still required to file their form by Oct. 15. The agency said all other normal deadlines also remain in effect.
The good news for taxpayers is that audits are also being halted. The bad news is they'll be rescheduled once the agency is up and running again.
Meanwhile, the IRS division that stands accused of targeting tea party groups for special scrutiny in their applications for tax-exempt status has been reduced, but some officials are still on the job.
According to the IRS contingency plan, seven employees in the Exempt Organizations division are deemed essential: "1 Director, Exempt Organizations (EO); 1 Director, EO Examinations; 1 Manager, Examination Programs and Review; 1 Examination Special Support Employee; 1 EO Technical Processing Unit employee; 1 Manager Processing Section; and 1 Manager, Adjustment Unit (EO Determinations)."
"This staff will ensure statute protection and processing of remittances as needed," the IRS said.
Another 10 employees from the counsel's office who are detailed to Tax Exempt & Government Organizations division are also still on the job. The IRS said they are there to handle critical court cases.
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