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Thousands of Workers Recalled by IRS Stay Out

Furloughed employees were to help with tax refunds, but many claim hardship or can't be reached
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 25, 2019 11:00 AM CST
IRS employee Christine Helquist joins a federal workers demonstration outside the Federal Building in Ogden, Utah, on Jan. 10.   (AP File Photo/Rick Bowmer)

(Newser) – Thousands of workers ordered to return to their jobs without pay by the IRS have not done so, Politico reports. Many of those employees recalled to help with the tax-return filing crunch have claimed financial hardship. IRS officials told House staffers, per the AP, that as of Tuesday, about 12,000 of 26,000 workers recalled were on the job. Of the rest, 5,000 invoked the hardship exemption under their union contract, and another 9,000 could not be reached by managers. The Trump administration had planned to bring about 46,000 furloughed employees, more than half of the IRS workforce, back to work despite the partial government shutdown. That would help the administration keep its promise to pay taxpayers their refunds on time.

The IRS and its employees are feeling the effects. Only about one-third of phone calls to the IRS were being answered, and the wait time is now 25 to 40 minutes. The agency also has lost around 25 IT employees during the shutdown, Politico reports, to retirement or other jobs. Shannon Ellis, president of the National Treasury Employees Union’s Kansas City local, tells the Washington Post that fewer than 600 of the 1,700 accounts management workers, who help with refunds, have returned since being recalled. Workers are missing shifts because they can’t pay for child care or their commute, she says. "People are panicking," she adds. "It’s scary. It’s getting worse every day." (Read more government shutdown stories.)

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