If Govt Shuts Down, Your IRS Check May Not Be in Mail

Thursday, 07 Apr 2011 12:16 PM

By Jim Meyers

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If the federal government does shut down on Friday because of Congress’ failure to pass a new funding bill, the Internal Revenue Service could stop issuing refund checks, unemployment benefits will suffer, and military personnel will not be paid — although they will have to remain on duty.

But air traffic controllers will remain on the job, security personnel will continue to screen air passengers, Social Security checks will be mailed out — and member of Congress will still be paid.

Editor's Note: For a slideshow on what could happen during a shutdown — Click Here Now.

Here’s a look at what the shutdown could mean, according to reports from The New York Times, Reuters, and other news sources:
  • National parks would shut down.
  • The federal government could stop paying its share of unemployment benefits, putting pressure on states to increase funding.
  • Passport and visa applications probably will go unprocessed.
  • During the government shutdowns in 1995 and 1996, the EPA’s cleanup work on toxic sites was halted because contractors could not be paid. Work on thousands of bankruptcy cases was suspended, and the government ceased chasing deadbeat dads.
  • Federal hot lines could go unanswered.
  • Although Homeland Security personnel will continue to work at airports, seaports and borders, many managers at headquarters would be idled.
  • Federal employees could no longer use their government-issued Blackberries.
  • The National Zoo will be closed to visitors, but the animals will continue to be fed.
  • Customs and Border Patrol agents training officials in Afghanistan might have to return to the United States.
  • The Smithsonian, which has sold 23,000 advance tickets for cafeteria meals and Imax movies for this month, would be closed to visitors during the height of the Washington, D.C., tourist season, The Washington Post disclosed.
  • Federal prisons will continue to operate.
  • Law enforcement and criminal investigations will not be impacted.
  • The Federal Housing Administration will stop guaranteeing loans, but Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will continue to operate.
  • New applications for Social Security may be delayed.
  • The approval of new import and export licenses would be delayed.
  • Federal courts would continue operations for about 10 days, using money from fees paid by people who have filed civil suits. “After that, who knows?” Karen Redmond, a spokeswoman for the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, told The Times.
  • A shutdown would have a “very material” impact on the Treasury Department, said Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, although he would not elaborate. Treasury will, however, continue to hold regular auctions of federal debt so the government can borrow more money from the public.
Much depends on how many federal employees are deemed “essential to the functioning of the government” and would remain on the job.

“Many federal officials insisted on showing up in previous shutdown, apparently unable to come to grips with the idea they might not be considered vital,” the Times observed.

It also is unclear whetehr federal employees would be compensated in the event of a shutdown. Congress would have to decide if employees who are furloughed get paid. Congress has agreed to provide compensation in the past, “but the political climate now is different,” the Times noted, “and lawmakers might be less willing to do so.”

The states will also likely suffer from the federal shutdown as they are forced to pay the salaries of workers normally paid with federal funds.

In Massachusetts alone, an estimated 4,500 full-time workers are paid from various federal sources. And Washington would suffer a significant loss of tax revenue if many of the 200,000 federal civilian employees lose their paychecks.

Although members of Congress are not among those who could face the loss of compensation, Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, told Maine radio station WLOB on Wednesday: "If we do shut down, members of Congress shouldn't get any pay during the shutdown.

"I don't think members should get any pay."

Editor's Note: For a slideshow on what could happen during a shutdown — Click Here Now.

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