The ink on 2012 tax returns was barely dry when the National Treasury Employees Union announced an IRS-wide furlough implementation for the 2013 calendar year. On five separate days in 2013, the IRS will be closed: May 24, June 14, July 5, July 22, and August 30. This means no answered phone calls, no conversations with IRS members about tax problems—in short, five very anxious days for anyone who needs tax help or advice.
Citing sequestration as the cause of this “disappointing development,” NTEU president Colleen M. Kelley voiced concerns about taxpayer impact, noting that while Tax Day may be over, many small businesses, taxpayers, and government entities still need IRS assistance to manage quarterly payments and fiscal-year business. But on the 2013 furlough dates, their calls will go unanswered. “I believe this is an unprecedented event that leaves taxpayers out in the cold,” Kelley said.
And taxpayer impact is only part of the problem: because of the sequester-incited budget cuts, NTEU is now forced to tell its 150,000 employees—whose salaries have undergone a pay freeze for the past three years—that these five furlough dates have the same effect as a pay cut. The consequences of such a cut have a far reach, affecting employee financial wellbeing as well as the lives of their families.
But don’t panic just yet. What seems like a difficult situation may have a clear solution, urges Kelley: “It is clear that the best course for federal employees, their agencies and the nation would be for Congress to end the sequester.” This may enable federal agencies to avoid future budget cuts that have such an impact on employees and taxpayers alike.