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IRS employee Donna Orton (C) holds a sign protesting the government shutdown at the James V. Hansen Federal Building in Ogden, Utah. Photo: Natalie Behring/Getty Images

Hundreds of employees at the Internal Revenue Service are being allowed to skip work, citing a "hardship" provision included in their union contract that allows them to call in absent due to financial challenges causing by a government shutdown, the Washington Post reports.

The big picture: Just last week, the Trump administration recalled 46,000 of the agency's furloughed workers to process tax refunds without pay. But union officials tell the Post that many workers aren't showing up, which could cause major problems as millions of Americans are expected to begin filing for tax refunds on Jan. 28. Employees who process tax refunds are among the agency's lowest paid, and are likely to miss their second straight paycheck as the shutdown continues into its 33rd day.

Go deeper: All the ways Americans are feeling the effects of the shutdown

Go deeper

Armin Laschet elected as leader of Merkel's CDU party in Germany

Armin Laschet. Photo: Christian Marquar - Pool/Getty Images

Armin Laschet, the centrist governor of North Rhine-Westphalia, was elected on Saturday as the new leader of Germany's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), defeating the more conservative Friedrich Merz by a 521-466 margin.

Why it matters: Laschet is now the most likely successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel as the standard bearer of the German center-right heading into September's elections. With Merkel preparing to step down after 16 years in power, Laschet is seen as a continuity candidate.

Updated 9 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to coronavirus pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Azar says deadly Capitol siege could "tarnish" Trump administration's legacy — Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.
Bryan Walsh, author of Future
17 mins ago - Politics & Policy

America is anxious, angry and heavily armed

Data: FBI; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Firearms background checks in the U.S. hit a record high in 2020.

The big picture: This past year took our collective arsenal to new heights, with millions of Americans buying guns for the first time. That trend coincides with a moment of peak political and social tension.