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IRS will issue tax refunds during shutdown, White House says

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Image: The Capitol as the partial government shutdown lurches into a third
The Capitol as the partial government shutdown lurches into a third week on Jan. 7, 2019.   -  
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J. Scott Applewhite AP
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This time, Uncle Sam has something for you.

The White House on Monday announced that it will reverse previous policy and direct the Internal Revenue Service to pay tax refunds this season during the partial government shutdown, which has gone on for more than two weeks.

Russell Vought, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, told reporters during a briefing on Monday that the Trump administration has "been trying to make this as painless as possible" within the law.

In the briefing with reporters, Vice President Mike Pence also said that President Donald Trump directed OMB to lessen the impact of the shutdown on everyday Americans.

Trump has been in an acrimonious standoff with Congress over funding his long-promised border wall, which prompted the shutdown. Roughly 800,000 federal employeeshave been furloughed or are working without pay. Democrats, who now control the House, passed legislation last week to end the shutdown. However, Congressional leaders are still haggling with the administration to re-open the government and address the president's demand for billions in border security.

In a contingency plan from December, the IRS noted that 12.5 percent of its staff is expected to continue working through a shutdown.

Taxpayers typically file for refunds at the beginning of the year, but during a shutdown, the IRS is typically restricted from dispersing tax refunds without congressional approval.

In 2018, the IRS began its filing season on Jan. 29. By Feb. 2, it had received roughly 18.3 million returns and processed 6.1 million refunds, with an average refund of $2,035. By Nov. 23, 2018, the IRS received about 154.4 million returns and issued an average refund of $2,899.

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