Here’s one effect of the partial government shutdown that is still complicating the lives of many Americans: the 2014 tax filing season has been delayed. The vast majority of operations at the Internal Revenue Service were shut down for the 16-day snafu in October, and the nation’s tax collectors are still playing catch-up. The filing season will begin on January 31, about 10 days later than usual.
Granted, a relatively small number of people file taxes well in advance of the April 15 deadline, but it’s important that the IRS get its house in order before processing refunds. While some Americans filing early rely on a timely tax refund to replenish savings after the holiday spending season and others are not afflicted with chronic procrastination, those committing tax refund fraud also tend to file early. All systems must be normal if the IRS and its team of investigators are to have a hope of protecting taxpayers from fraud.
If you have never been the victim of identity theft, it may be easy to miss the enormity of the problem. Tax refund fraud alone affects millions of people every year and costs the government billions of dollars. In 2011, fraudsters stole more than $3 billion from the government via an estimated 1.1 million false returns.