Filing Your Tax Return During the Government Shutdown

It would seem that because the government is still on a partial shutdown that Americans would get a break on filing their taxes this coming April 15th. However, that is not the case. Your tax returns and payments must be filed by the appropriate dates. Even though many government offices are partially staffed, including the IRS, the following is true:

Federal law provides that the IRS must be manned during the shutdown by exempt employees whose roles “protect human life and property.” Tax revenues are federal property.

The IRS must remain open during the shutdown, although it will seemingly be short-staffed. And it must process all tax returns submitted on paper that include payments.


Here is what you need to know about filing your 2018 return:

  • You don’t have to wait to file your 2018 tax return. Go ahead and prepare and send in your return as soon as you have all required documentation on hand, such as W-2s and 1099s. If you owe the IRS money, send a check. The IRS will begin processing paper returns with payments and e-filed returns on Jan. 28, and all other deadlines are expected to remain intact. As always, the sooner your tax return is in line with other received returns awaiting processing, the sooner you’ll receive your refund if you’re due one. If you don’t owe the IRS money, however, you might not want to submit a paper return. The law says that processing these will have to wait until after the shutdown, so this might be a good year to go electronic.
  • The filing deadline for 2018 returns is still April 15, 2019—at least for most taxpayers. This is Patriot’s Day in Maine and Massachusetts, so your deadline is April 17 if you live in one of these states, allowing for Emancipation Day, a holiday in the District of Columbia, on April 16.
  • Do not think you can delay filing your tax return or paying a tax debt because of the shutdown. You’re still legally obligated to file and pay on time, even when Congress is squabbling. This includes the estimated tax payments made by self-employed individuals that are due on Jan. 15. The IRS website specifically states that you should “file and pay taxes as normal.”

Word to the wise, consider this a normal year when it comes to filing your tax returns. The partial government shutdown should not change any due dates.