The Internal Revenue Service will recall 46,000 workers who have been furloughed during the partial government shutdown to process tax returns and refunds, according to the Associated Press. That’s 60 percent of the agency’s workforce, and they’ll all be working without pay.
Tax season begins officially on January 28th, and it seems that the agency wants to be ready for the deluge of filings. The Trump administration promised that refunds would be payed out on time despite the shutdown. They also said that the usual protocols of government shutdowns will be ignored to make sure there is money to pay for the refunds.
Until now, only 10,000 IRS employees have been working during the shutdown.
Tax refunds are a crucial source of cash for many Americans, especially those who are low income. Many file their returns early to get the refund money as quickly as possible. The average refund is $2,800.
IRS employees, unsurprisingly, are not happy about the situation, and their union has taken action.
Angered over employees having to work without pay, the union representing IRS staff sued in federal court last week to challenge any such agency action on constitutional grounds. The Constitution doesn’t allow the government to obligate funds that haven’t been provided by Congress, and the executive branch “can’t continue to force more and more employees to show up in exchange only for an IOU,” the National Treasury Employees Union said.
But today, a federal judge rejected the challenge, meaning that the government will not be forced to pay employees called in to work.
Over 800,000 government workers are going without pay during the shutdown, which began on December 21st and has become the longest in U.S. history. Trump is still holding out on reopening the government while he tries to pressure Congress into funding his $5.7 billion border wall. But he isn’t concerned.
“People are actually amazed that, with this many people, that government is really working so well. So we’re very proud of that,” Trump said in a conference call today.