02/15/2013 12:35 pm ET Updated Apr 17, 2013

The IRS Sequestration: Why You Should Care, and What It Means

Perhaps you've heard of the pending government sequestration and by direct impact the IRS sequestration. Perhaps you haven't. Either way, it's coming, and if you have not filed your 2012 taxes yet, it will affect you, and probably not in a good way. But before we get into that good stuff, let's look at what it is in the first place.

Sequester, or sequestration, is the term for the general cut in government spending coming soon. Due to the Budget Control Act of 2011, Congress has to complete and approve a budget by Jan. 1, 2013 (since extended to Feb. 28, 2013), or the government will immediately cut spending and furlough staff across all areas of the federal government -- sequestration, or in other words staff layoffs and other impacts. The spending cuts and personnel layoffs will affect programs in the IRS, such as the taxpayer call center, taxpayer outreach programs and the IRS's ability to rapidly respond to issues in the current tax season. So while tax refunds will not be affected by the sequester, if you need any help during the filing process, you're going to have a much harder time after March 1.

An IRS furlough means the following for taxpayers:
  • There will be even fewer IRS operators to take taxpayer calls and answer questions.
  • The taxpayer assistance centers will operate with even fewer people and hours than currently during a time that is expected to be even busier than normal.
  • If there are issues, even small ones, they will take much longer to address and get corrected with your return.

With late-breaking fiscal cliff tax legislation this year, the many tax law changes, delays in the start of tax season and important forms, just about everything needed to get your taxes done is finally working very well right now, but that all could change after March 1. So regardless of why you have still not filed your tax return, it truly is a best practice to file as soon as you have all of your information. As I've said in the past for all of the "this year is a complex year" reasons, this is not a year to go it alone at tax time. You should use a paid preparer to help navigate the murky confusing world of taxes, and soon, before possible IRS and other government sequestrations occur.