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IRS and Tax Court reopen after government shutdown; PTIN renewals delayed

 

By Sally P. Schreiber, J.D.
October 17, 2013

After President Barack Obama signed the bill reopening the federal government and raising the debt limit, the IRS posted a notice on its website Thursday morning notifying workers to report to work no later than four hours after “the start of their tour of duty that begins at 6 a.m. or later local time on Oct. 17.” Employees with approved telecommuting schedules can work at home; all others must take leave if they cannot return to work.

The IRS also announced on Thursday that 2014 renewals of preparer tax identification numbers (PTINs) are being delayed because of the government shutdown. The IRS will notify current PTIN holders when the renewal season will start.

Approximately 90% of IRS employees were furloughed during the 16-day government shutdown. As a result, many IRS functions were not operating, including the issuing of refunds and liens and levies. All taxpayer services, including telephone assistance and local IRS offices, were closed, and the Taxpayer Advocate Service shut down. Also, no IRS guidance was issued during the shutdown.

The Tax Court, which was the only federal court that closed during the government shutdown, reopened for business on Thursday for its regular business hours: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Unlike the IRS, the court did not give its employees a four-hour reprieve. The court began accepting hand and electronically filed documents again on Thursday and began sending out documents itself.

Cases that had been scheduled to be heard during the shutdown will be rescheduled. The court will notify the parties of the new dates and times. For cases that were scheduled to begin Oct. 21 or later, the schedules are unchanged unless the parties are notified otherwise. For other court-scheduled due dates, the court will publish a follow-up notice describing grace periods for filings that have been affected by the shutdown.

The court reiterated its inability to defer filing deadlines that are set by statute, such as the Sec. 6213(a) deadline to file a tax court petition to redetermine a deficiency within 90 days of receiving the deficiency notice and the 30-day deadline for filing a petition challenging a lien or levy under Sec. 6330(d)(1). During the shutdown, petitions and other documents could be filed only via U.S. mail or private delivery services. Taxpayers could rely on the Sec. 7502(a) rule that a timely mailed petition is treated as timely filed, as of the date of the U.S. postal service postmark on the envelope in which the petition was mailed. Under Sec. 7502(f), petitions sent using designated private delivery services get the benefit of this rule. Now that the Tax Court has reopened, taxpayers whose filing deadlines fall on Oct. 17 or later may resume electronic filing or hand-delivery, as well as continue to mail the petitions.

Sally P. Schreiber (sschreiber@aicpa.org) is a JofA senior editor.

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