Fact Check: Shutdown Won't Stop Tax Refunds

Fact Check: Shutdown Won't Stop Tax Refunds
Fact Check: Shutdown Won't Stop Tax Refunds

Many conservatives aren’t too upset by the ongoing government shutdown, which is now in its third week. After all, the government tries to do far too much these days; as long as essentials like defense are covered, many don’t care if the rest of it’s shut down. There’s one thing most people want to happen though – to get back any money the government took from us that’s rightfully ours. So will the IRS use the shutdown as an excuse to delay tax refunds?

Highlights

  • The average tax refund check last year was $2,899, which is a significant amount of money for most people. To get their refunds early, millions of Americans file their tax returns as soon as the filing season begins – over 18.3 million people did this in 2018, and the IRS paid out roughly $12.6 billion in refunds.
  • This year’s tax filing season opens on January 28 – but there’s no guarantee the shutdown will have ended by then.
  • During previous shutdowns the IRS has been happy to accept tax returns and collect taxes, but it hasn’t issued refunds. If the government owed you money, you had to wait until the shutdown ended before you’d see your check.
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  • This time it’s going to be different. Russell Vought, acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, announced on Monday that tax refunds will be issued on time during this shutdown. Vought made clear that the current administration sees a delay on tax refunds as a bug, not a feature, and one that’s now fixed.
  • It looks like the change has come from inside the IRS itself. Up to now their excuse for not issuing refunds was the way they interpreted the Antideficiency Act, the law that regulates what work can be done during a shutdown. Now they seem to have re-interpreted it in a less self-serving way.
  • It’s technically possible for OMB to challenge the decision, but Vought’s announcement makes this look unlikely. Paying refunds on time is going to be popular, and there’s no political mileage in trying to stop it from happening.
  • The move also disarms a political weapon aimed at the president. If refunds had been blocked again, there would have been huge political pressure on President Trump to back down on his security plans. Now, ordinary Americans will be a lot less affected by the shutdown – and not so desperate for it to end.
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