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Obamacare to blame for the 2014 tax filing season delay?

Did you, like me, think that the Internal Revenue Service's decision to push back the start of the 2014 tax filing season was because of this October's federal government shutdown?

Well, says the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, we were wrong.

Next filing season's delay until Jan. 28 or later can be blamed on Obamacare.

Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), the head of the House tax-writing committee, says it appears that the IRS is putting a higher priority on implementing Obamacare, the nickname given the Affordable Care Act (ACA) health reform law, than tending to its core mission of processing the nearly 150 million tax returns we send the agency each year.

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"The IRS claims that it will be unable to process tax returns on time, despite being able to do so multiple times in the past when it has been responsible for adopting major changes to tax law," said Camp in a statement regarding the delay. "Given that the agency has already had nine full months, and still has nearly three more, there is no reason the IRS should not be able to do its job on time."

Camp relayed his concerns in a letter sent to IRS Acting Commissioner Daniel Werfel regarding the later-than-normal opening of the 2014 tax filing season. In the Oct. 23 letter, Camp calls the IRS explanation preposterous:

"The IRS announced that the delay was necessary to allow adequate time to program and test tax processing systems following the 16-day federal government closure. This rationale is preposterous. Last year, the President signed into law significant changes to the tax code governing individuals on January 2, 2013. Much to the credit of the IRS, the agency was able to adapt to these changes with just one week's delay and very few problems were reported over the course of the tax filing season. It strains credulity to believe that today, with absolutely no new changes to the tax law -- 13 weeks away from the originally scheduled date -- the IRS cannot make-up twelve work-days. This determination raises serious questions about how the IRS actually allocated its resources during the shutdown."

As for those resources, Camp wants Werfel to answer by Nov. 6 the following questions:

  • Is it your position that IRS officials working on ACA implementation are essential for the protection of "life or property?" [That's the standard under which employees were allowed to stay on the job during the government shutdown.]
  • Notwithstanding the [IRS shutdown contingency] plan, which deemed 81 IRS employees as essential for Obamacare implementation, how many IRS employees worked in this capacity during the shutdown, and for how many hours?
  • What system changes, updates or testing is necessary to open the start of the filing season given that no substantive changes have been made to tax law over the last year?
  • Specifically, what additional changes or testing does the IRS need to complete prior to the opening of the filing season that are directly related to the implementation of Obamacare?
  • How many IRS staff would have been required to have been deemed essential in order to ensure that tax filing season could open on time?
  • According to the IRS’s announcement, “nearly 150 million,” filers will face delays.  To date, how many applications for Obamacare has the IRS been directly involved in processing?
  • Did the IRS consult with the Treasury Department or White House in the creation of the Plan or regarding its operation during the shutdown?

Camp also wants Werfel to provide all communication between the IRS and the U.S. Department of the Treasury and/or White House regarding the Plan and/or Obamacare implementation during the shutdown.

Do you think Camp is correct? Or is this just the usual partisan politicking and, given problems with the ACA's online insurance enrollment exchanges, a way to pile on the president's signature piece of legislation?

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Patricia Sullivan Snyder

The shutdown gave the IRS a choice of what resources to employ to preserve life or property. It kept a full contingent of ACA workers. In prior shutdowns, it kept more staff to work on systems work. It is not the Republicans fault that the President tried to make this as painful as possible. Seriously, they can't make up for 12 workdays in 13 weeks with no change in the tax code? In the past, the IRS has gotten its systems up to speed to account for a change in the tax code in just 13 days when the law changed at the last minute. There is no excuse and they can't blame the Republicans for their choices.

Robert D Flach


Any delay in the start of the tax filing season (though not for me) will be the result of the Republicans for pandering to the fanatical Tea Party and religious right and causing the government to shut down for over two weeks.

The Democrats must share some of the fault. Discussion on the budget and the debt ceiling should never have waited until the last minute. Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress are self-absorbed idiots who are incapable of independent thought and cannot work together to do their job.


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