IRS to furlough all 90,000 employees

Friday - 4/19/2013, 3:48pm EDT

The Internal Revenue Service will send furlough notices to its entire workforce beginning Monday — including its acting commissioner.

"Everyone is covered by this furlough, and that means everyone from the acting commissioner and executives to managers and employees," Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller said in an email to staff sent Friday.

According to the 2012 IRS data book, the agency has 89,551 employees — 86,743 full-time permanent employees and 2,808 classified as other.

The agency has identified five furlough days where it will essentially shut down entirely. Miller said two additional furlough days were also possible if the agency decides it needs them. These would occur in August and September.

The furlough days currently scheduled will take place May 24, June 14, July 5, July 22, and Aug. 30.

"All public-facing operations will be closed on these dates, including our toll-free operations and Taxpayer Assistance Centers," Miller said. "Some mission-essential IT and security personnel, who maintain systems and building safety, may need to work on these furlough days, however they will be taking furlough days on alternative dates within those pay periods."

The IRS said earlier this year that it would implement furloughs after the rush of tax season had subsided.

Miller said there were a number of factors the agency took into consideration when deciding which dates to close the agency.

"First, we know what a big financial impact losing a day of pay can mean," Miller said. "We wanted to make sure there is only one furlough day a pay period, and we have also worked to stagger the dates further so that there are some pay periods during the summer with no furlough days. We hope this approach helps with your financial planning."

Miller said the agency will see additional savings on utilities and other services from shutting down agency operations entirely on its furlough days.

Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said her union continues to talk with the IRS about the furlough process and its impact on employees.

"Implementation of any furlough days is a disappointing development," Kelley said in a press release. "Furloughing IRS employees is further evidence of the ongoing damage sequestration is causing across the country."

Miller said some IRS employees will receive their furlough notices via email, while others will receive hard-copy letters. All IRS employees in non-work status will have their furlough notices sent to their home addresses.

He also urged his employees to keep an eye out for updates on the agency's internal sequestration page.

In addition to the furloughs, the IRS has frozen hiring, cut spending on travel, training and supplies, and directed managers to scrutinize contract and grant funding.

Before sequestration became a reality, the IRS had already been dealing with tighter budgets, a shrinking workforce, and an increasing workload.

A January 2013 report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, said these factors, combined with leadership changes at the top of the agency, threatened to upend the gains the agency has made over the past few years to better manage its workforce.