The Internal Revenue Service said that it will be recalling tens of thousands of agency employees who are currently furloughed by the ongoing partial government shutdown to help with tax filing season which officially begins on January 28.
A revised agency contingency plan released on Tuesday said that 57.4% of the IRS workforce (46,052) are now considered excepted or exempt from the shutdown and will need to work. This contrasts with the last version of the contingency plan that said that only 9,946 employees (12.5% of the IRS workforce) were considered exempt. That is a 385% increase in the number of exempt employees in the two versions of the contingency plans.
The IRS had said in the previous version of its contingency plan that the agency would continue to collect taxes but not pay refunds.
This, apparently, was not a politically popular position to take during the shutdown, so the agency ultimately reversed course when the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget declared “tax refunds will go out” after all, a departure from precedent set in past shutdowns.
The IRS said that the refunds are paid despite the lapse in appropriations because “tax refunds are paid from the permanent, indefinite refund appropriation (31 U.S.C. § 1324) and activities necessary to issue the refunds may continue during a shutdown.”
The employees who are now considered exempt and who must work will do so without pay as long as the shutdown continues. Their pay will come after the shutdown concludes, but it is unknown when that end may come as both sides continue to dig in and President Trump warned of a possible “long” shutdown.
NTEU recently filed a second lawsuit over the shutdown and pointed to the IRS recalling employees to help with tax season as a prime example to help make its case. The union argued that requiring federal employees to work without pay during the shutdown is unconstitutional on the grounds that the Antideficiency Act violates the Appropriations Clause of the Constitution. For more on the lawsuit, see NTEU Files Another Lawsuit Over the Shutdown.