The government has been partially shut down for nearly a week and half as of Wednesday, and if it goes on much longer, it could affect this year’s tax season.
Officials want everyone to file their taxes like normal for the time being. However, if the shutdown extends through mid-January, as some believe it might, you should expect a delay in getting your refund.
Vox noted Wednesday that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) made a shutdown contingency plan, but it lasted for just five days. For now, little more than 12 percent of IRS employees are working at all. The rest have been furloughed. None of the employees are currently getting paid, though the government has typically passed legislation to pay back employees once the government reopens.
As Politico recently reported, many of those employees may therefore be called back and asked to work without pay as tax season heats up. This means that you will still be able to file your taxes, both by mail or online, even if the shutdown stretches into late January or beyond. If you’re owed anything back, however, you shouldn’t expect to receive anything until the government is reopened.
A delay can be problematic for people who are relying on their returns to pay holiday debts or cover other expenses, MarketWatch noted. “[…] To delay that money even a day or a few days can have catastrophic impact” for people living paycheck to paycheck, Mark Steber, chief tax officer at Jackson Hewitt, told the outlet.
Delayed refunds aren’t the only way the partial shutdown could affect everyday Americans. As ThinkProgress wrote last month, the shutdown will also affect the Emergency Food Assistance Program, slowing the delivery of food to soup kitchens, food banks, and pantries.
Additionally, guarantees to back loans from the Small Business Administration have been frozen as a result of the shutdown, meaning millions of small businesses lost access to federal assistance loans and technical assistance. Homebuyers looking to obtain mortgages will also likely experience delays.
Many National Parks and monuments have been closed, including the Smithsonian and National Zoo in Washington D.C., though some have remained open, causing a build-up of trash piles and litter, as park services have mostly been furloughed.
BuzzFeed noted this week that access to marriage licenses in the District of Columbia have also been suspended until the government is reopened, as local court system is funded by Congress.
Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid have not been affected, as funds for those programs are not allocated annually.
The shutdown was sparked by President Trump’s demand for $5 billion in funding for a wall on the southern border, which he has repeatedly promised Mexico will pay for.
Trump previously said during a meeting with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) at the White House last month that he would take full responsibility for any shutdown and would not blame Democrats.
However, since then, he has pointed a finger at Democrats, despite the fact that the party’s leaders say passing a bill to reopen the government without funding the wall will be their first priority once new members are sworn in Thursday, officially giving the party the majority in the House.