The U.S. Internal Revenue Service is open for business again this Monday for the first time following Friday's end to the record-setting 35-day partial government shutdown. But while the agency is back to accepting tax returns and issuing tax refunds, it will reportedly take months -- if not more than a year -- for the IRS to dig out from under the blizzard of paperwork that piled up.

The National Taxpayer Advocate, a watchdog group that oversees the IRS, told House lawmakers that it could take 12 to 18 months for the agency to catch up on all of the correspondence, worker training and other things that it missed during the shutdown, sources told The Washington Post. And that estimate assumes there's not a second government shutdown in a few weeks when the temporary funding deal runs out.

A source told the paper that the IRS is sitting on 5 million pieces of unopened mail, having received 700,000 letters per day during the shutdown instead of the normal 200,000. That's apparently due in part to the fact that in-person taxpayer-assistance centers were closed during the shutdown. Similarly, sources told the Post that the shutdown delayed training for IRS employees on how to handle changes sparked by President Donald Trump's 2017 tax overhaul.  The paper also reported that some 2,000 recent IRS hires still need training before they can start answering taxpayers' phone calls.

As you delve into your own tax returns, here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Your Refund Might Be Delayed. While the IRS called 46,000 employees back to work for unpaid duty during the shutdown, thousands didn't show up, The New York Times reported.
  • If You Need to Meet with the IRS, You Could Be Waiting. Monday is the first day you can call to reschedule meetings that were canceled during the shutdown over a collection issue, an audit, or an appeal of a decision, Forbes noted.
  • Court Delays Are Possible, Too. Many tax cases in federal court were also put on hold during the shutdown and will now have to be rescheduled.
  • You Might Wait to Get Questions Answered. If you or your accountant are looking for clarity on one of the many ambiguities under 2017's $1.5 trillion Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, you could also be in for a wait. The IRS was slower than normal during the shutdown in issuing new regulations clarifying changes made to the tax code, while accountants and attorneys have had a hard time getting IRS officials on the phone, the Post reported.

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