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USA: IRS may be closed, but taxes still due

Although the Internal Revenue Service is pretty much closed due to the government shutdown showdown, taxpayers still need to meet their obligations to Uncle Sam.

“Individuals and businesses should keep filing their tax returns and making deposits with the IRS, as they are required to do so by law,” explained tax adviser Janet Sienicki of Schererville, who specializes in tax return filing, tax planning and bookkeeping for small businesses.

“The IRS will accept and process all tax returns with payments, but will be unable to issue refunds during this time,” she said in a statement prepared for her clients.

How may this affect you? Taxpayers should continue to file and pay taxes as normal, the IRS states. Meaning, millions of Americans still need to file their tax returns by Tuesday, the extension date allowed by the IRS.

All other tax deadlines remain in effect, including those covering individuals, corporations, partnerships and employers. The regular payroll tax deadlines remain in effect as well.

You can file your tax return electronically or on paper, although the processing of paper returns will be delayed until full government operations resume. Payments accompanying paper tax returns will still be accepted as the IRS receives them.

Millions of other Americans are expecting tax refunds, but those refunds will not be issued until normal government operations resume, according to the IRS.

What IRS services are available? For taxpayers seeking assistance, only the automated applications are open. No live telephone customer service assistance is available and the IRS walk-in taxpayer office centers are closed.

If there is a sliver of a silver lining in all this, it’s that all IRS audits have been canceled until the shutdown ends.

For more information, visit the IRS website,, though most of its interactive features are not available.

Beware of ‘pink-washing’

With October nicknamed “Pinktober” again for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, be aware that it also can be labeled “Breast Cancer Industry Month.”

Big Business in this country is making big business off the iconic pink-themed breast cancer awareness campaign, including pink ribbons, pink consumer goods and possibly “pink-washing.”

Pink-washing is the label for many of the scams that use this month’s worthy cause to extract charitable donations from sympathetic givers. Remember, the pink-ribbon symbol is not regulated by any agency, so anyone or any business can use it to hawk their goods, sell you stuff or flat-out deceive you.

The Better Business Bureau is warning people about this annual marketing flimflam, which also involves companies not telling customers that their maximum donation cap has been reached. Meaning, some of the additional money they rake in under the guise of aiding breast cancer programs is actually going into their for-profit coffers.

The BBB reminds people to simply do their homework before digging deep into your pocket or purse. Ask where your donation is going, what percentage goes to the campaign, and if the company or organization’s charity partner is involved in breast cancer programs.

Donating to a worthy cause is one thing. Being a good-hearted sucker is quite another.

‘Cold hard truth’

Timothy Scott felt compelled to contact me about a local incident even though he doesn’t live in this region.

The Muncie man has been a locomotive train engineer for nearly 25 years and has witnessed 25 railroad track crossing incidents, including one fatality.

“I can tell you that every one of them impacts your thinking and feelings as an engineer,” Scott said regarding my recent column on the 54-year-old Michigan woman who took her life by standing in front of a speeding South Shore train last month.

Scott has a firsthand sensitivity to the stigmatized issue of suicide. His wife took her life while he was at work one night. He returned home to find her body.

“So I really feel for a train crew that goes through a fatality,” he said. “(We) are doing this job — one that I love — and doing everything (we) are supposed to be doing. It is a very tough reality of the job. Thanks for shedding light on this subject.”

“The one thing you have to remember in this position is that you cannot protect people from themselves,” he said. “I know this seems cold, but it is the hard truth.”

‘Faces of Suicide’

I also heard from a representative for the Suicide Prevention Council of Northwest Indiana, an organization with many resources to offer region residents.

“One way we try to engage the community and those who have been affected is through our annual conference, Faces of Suicide,” said Steven Butera, director of performance outcomes for Campagna Academy in Schererville, which focuses on the wellbeing of children.

“This year’s conference focus is on trauma and its relationship to suicide,” Butera said. “We are presenting some very interesting ways of treating trauma and ways of understanding how it occurs. In addition, in honor of Veterans Day, we will be spending a portion of the day on suicide related to veterans and offering information about services and supports for them.”

The day-long “Faces of Suicide: Faces of Trauma” conference will take place at Indiana University Northwest on Nov. 8. For more information, contact Norma Jean Juel at 757-1906 or

Viral video of the week

This week’s most hilarious YouTube video is a marketing promotion for the horror movie remake, “Carrie,” which comes out Friday.

The video, set in a New York City coffeehouse, uses hidden cameras to capture customers’ reactions to a well-designed scene involving a Carrie-like woman using her telekinetic powers to cause evil mayhem.

I laughed out loud at its impressive payoff while wondering how I would have reacted. Watch it here: