Yes, the Internal Revenue Service is (mostly) shut down right now. But that doesn’t mean that you get a break: the 12 million taxpayers who filed for extension during tax season must still file and pay any balance due on Tuesday, October 15, 2013.

That deadline applies to all taxpayers who timely requested a six-month extension of the time to file in April.

There are a few exceptions to the October 15 deadline: members of the military and others serving in Afghanistan or other combat zone localities typically have until at least 180 days after they leave the combat zone to both file returns and pay any taxes due.

Additionally, taxpayers with extensions in parts of Colorado affected by severe storms, flooding, landslides, and mudslides have until December 2, 2013, to file and pay.

For faster processing, the IRS encourages taxpayers to file electronically. The Free File system using fillable forms is available to all taxpayers and some electronic filing options are available free of charge for taxpayers with incomes of $57,000 or less.

If you are expecting a refund, you’re out of luck for the short term: due to the shutdown, IRS is processing payments but not issuing refunds. The “Where’s My Refund?” tool will not give you a firm date for your refund until after the shutdown: the IRS advises you to check “Where’s My Refund?” TWO days after the government reopens for updated information.

Remember that the IRS is not answering the phone during the shutdown and Taxpayer Assistance Centers are not available. You can, however, get forms and publications from and the automated phone system. You can also ask your tax professional. I usually advocate waiting and filing the best, most complete return possible.

However, in this instance, I’m encouraging taxpayers who have questions not to wait until IRS is up and running but rather to file by the deadline – you can always file an amended return later if it turns out that you made an honest mistake (yes, interest and penalty might still apply but you will avoid a “failure to file” penalty).

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Kelly Erb is a tax attorney and tax writer.

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