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updated: 3/1/2013 10:38 AM

IRS says spending cuts shouldn't delay tax refunds

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Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Here's a bright spot amid the doom and gloom of the government's automatic spending cuts: They shouldn't delay tax refunds.

Any furloughs at the Internal Revenue Service will be delayed until summer, after the tax filing season ends, acting Commissioner Steven Miller said in a memo to employees this week.

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Miller said he wants to minimize the impact of spending on taxpayers and IRS workers, though employees could be furloughed for five to seven days, if the spending cuts remain in effect this summer. The agency will also continue a hiring freeze and reduce spending on travel, training, facilities and supplies, he said.

The IRS boasts that most taxpayers get refunds within 21 days, if they file electronically and get refunds deposited directly into bank accounts. About 75 percent of individual filers get refunds. Last year they averaged $2,803.

The spending cuts, known as the sequester, are to take effect Friday.

Other IRS services may be affected. Taxpayers may not be able to reach IRS workers when they call help lines, and there may be longer waits at taxpayer assistance centers, according to a Feb. 7 letter from the Treasury Department to Congress.

Also, the IRS won't be able to review as many tax returns.

"This could result in billions of dollars in lost revenue and further complicate deficit reduction efforts," the Treasury letter said. "In recent years each dollar spent on the IRS has returned at least $4 in additional enforcement revenue."

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