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US Rep. Richard Neal says Trump administration’s plan to process tax returns ‘no substitute’ for reopening government

January 8, 2019
In The News

Despite the Trump administration’s announcement that it will process Americans' tax returns during the partial federal government shutdown, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, continued to raise concerns this week about how the funding lapse could impact such operations.

Neal, the chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, offered that while he looks forward to reviewing the Internal Revenue Service’s contingency plan for the upcoming tax filing season, the administration’s decision is not enough to address shutdown-related concerns.

The congressman, who pressed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig for details on how the shutdown could impact tax filings earlier this week, said officials told him Monday that the IRS will soon release details on how they plan to process tax return filings and refunds during the funding lapse.

Neal said he looks “forward to seeing a more detailed description of how the agency will carry out these operations, particularly what will be expected of Treasury and IRS personnel" -- many of whom have been furloughed.

He, however, argued that “these developments are no substitute for funding the government and fully reopening these agencies.”

Noting that the Democrat-led House intends to pass an appropriations bills to fund the Treasury Department and IRS on Wednesday, he further called on the Republican-led Senate to “move the legislation swiftly to President (Donald) Trump’s desk for his signature.”

The IRS announced Monday that it will begin processing tax returns on Jan. 28 and provide refunds to taxpayers as scheduled despite the partial government shutdown.

Officials noted that the agency will recall “a significant portion of its workforce" that is currently furloughed due to the federal funding lapse.

“We are committed to ensuring that taxpayers receive their refunds notwithstanding the government shutdown,” Rettig said in a statement. “I appreciate the hard work of the employees and their commitment to the taxpayers during this period.”

Rettig, who noted that the IRS will release its contingency plan to the public “in the coming days,” added that the agency has been “hard at work over the past year" to implement the tax law changes included in GOP-backed legislation approved in December 2017.

The shutdown -- now in its third week -- began late last month when funding ran out for nine Cabinet-level departments and various agencies after Congress and the White House failed to reach an agreement on border security spending.

The Associated Press noted that about 420,000 workers were deemed essential would work unpaid, while an additional 380,000 were furloughed.