Shortly after resuming operations post-government shutdown, the IRS told taxpayers that the start of the 2014 filing season will be delayed by one to two weeks. The delay will largely impact taxpayers who want to file their 2013 returns early in the filing season. At the same time, the White House clarified on social media that no penalty under the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate would be imposed during the enrollment period for obtaining coverage through an ACA Marketplace.
On October 1, many IRS employees in Washington, D.C. and nationwide were furloughed after Congress failed to approve funding for the government’s fiscal year (FY 2014). During the shutdown, only 10 percent of the IRS’ approximately 90,000 employees remained on the job, most engaged in criminal investigations and infrastructure support. Employees on furlough, including revenue agents assigned to exams and hearing officers assigned to collection due process cases, were expressly prohibited from doing any work, including checking email and voice messages.
Employees return to work
The IRS reopened on October 17. The previous day, Congress had passed legislation to fund the government through mid-January 2014. The IRS immediately cautioned taxpayers to expect longer wait times and limited service as it would take time for employees to resume work and process backlogged inventory. Upon their return to work, IRS employees began reviewing email, voice messages and their files as well as completing administrative tasks to reopen operations. The IRS reported that it received 400,000 pieces of correspondence during the furlough period in addition to nearly one million items already being processed before the shutdown.
Returns and refunds
The 16-day furlough overlapped with the October 15 deadline for taxpayers on extension to file 2012 returns. The IRS reported that during the shutdown it continued as many automated processes as possible, including accepting returns and processing payments. The Free File system also was open during the furlough period. However, refunds were not issued while the IRS was closed. Refunds are now being processed. If you have any questions about a refund or payment, please contact our office.
The start of the 2014 filing season will be delayed approximately one to two weeks so the IRS can program and test tax processing systems following the 16-day federal government closure. The IRS had anticipated opening the 2014 filing season on January 21. With a one- to two-week delay, the IRS would start accepting and processing 2013 individual tax returns no earlier than January 28, 2014 and no later than February 4, 2014. The IRS reported it will make a final determination on the start of the 2014 filing season in mid-December.
The IRS explained that the government shutdown took place during the peak period for preparing its return processing systems for the 2014 filing season. The IRS must program, test and deploy more than 50 systems to handle processing of nearly 150 million tax returns.
“Readying our systems to handle the tax season is an intricate, detailed process, and we must take the time to get it right,” Acting Commissioner Daniel Werfel said in a statement. “The adjustment to the start of the filing season provides us the necessary time to program, test and validate our systems so that we can provide a smooth filing and refund process for the nation’s taxpayers. We want the public and tax professionals to know about the delay well in advance so they can prepare for a later start of the filing season.”
Affordable Care Act
Beginning January 1, 2014, the Affordable Care Act generally requires individuals – unless exempt – to carry health insurance or make a shared responsibility payment (also known as a penalty). Individuals exempt from the payment include individuals covered by most employer-sponsored health plans, Medicare, Medicaid, and other government programs. The penalty is $95 in 2014 or the flat fee of one percent of taxable income, $325 in 2015 or the flat fee of two percent of taxable income, $695 in 2016 or 2.5 percent of taxable income (the $695 amount is indexed for inflation after 2016).
The Obama administration launched individual Marketplaces (formerly known as Exchanges) on October 1 in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The enrollment period for coverage for 2014 began on October 1 and is scheduled to end March 31, 2014, which is after the January 1 effective date of the individual mandate. In late October, the Obama administration clarified on social media that individuals who enroll in coverage through a Marketplace at anytime during the enrollment period will not be responsible for a penalty.
Because of technical problems, some applications on HealthCare.gov have not been running at 100 percent, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reported. Individuals can, however, enroll and obtain insurance at in-person assistance centers. Marketplace customer call centers are also open, HHS explained.