White House orders IRS to issue tax refunds despite shutdown

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But fear not, the White House says; tax refund checks will be sent out, even though the IRS, part of the Treasury Department, is for the most part closed.

OMB deputy director Russ Vought told The Daily Caller the White House would work quickly to make the process as "painless as possible" for taxpayers during a Monday meeting.

The Internal Revenue Service, despite operating on a skeleton workforce, will pay tax refunds, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Concern has been growing that hundreds of billions of dollars in refunds would be delayed until the shutdown ends because funding for them wouldn't be available.

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This caught many White House officials flat-footed, as several cabinet secretaries and agency leaders left Washington over Christmas week for vacations and other travel. Senior administration officials changed rules to pay Coast Guard salaries in December, restart an IRS program to clear mortgage applications, and reopen some national parks. The IRS is among the many agencies affected the decision to close the government while Congress tries to work out a deal on the border wall.

Last year, the IRS began accepting returns on January 29.

The online alert reads, "Under federal law, all tax payment and filing remain in effect during this period". Additionally, a 1040 form has been reduced to the size of a postcard and is expected to draw questions as people file 2018 tax returns. According to the Tax Policy Center, a middle-income household should on average get a $930 tax cut for 2018, lifting its after-tax income by 1.6 percent.

In the meantime, some IRS employees continue working to implement the new tax plan, which contained its own funding for two fiscal years. Republicans controlling the congressional purse strings for years accused the IRS of having a liberal bias and unfairly targeting conservative tax-exempt groups. "The IRS usually pays around $125 [billion] in tax refunds in February and a further $75 billion in March", Ashworth wrote.