So The Government Is Shut Down… Do I Still Have To Pay My Taxes?

As the sun rises over Washington, D.C., this morning, huge numbers of federal employees are either not coming in to work or are only coming in to shut down their offices until lawmakers sort this mess out. But just because the wheels of government have come grinding to a halt doesn’t mean everything is put on hold indefinitely.

The Washington Post has this handy reference page where it lists several federal agencies and services — and some things, like the Postal Service, that people mistakenly think are federal — and whether or not they will continue to operate during the shutdown.

For example, programs like Social Security, Medicaid/Medicare, will continue to operate, as will SNAP (aka “food stamps”). It’s highly likely that the agencies responsible for these programs will shift their focus on to maintaining services for those currently enrolled and that there will be delays on processing new applicants.

For college students who have yet to receive disbursal of their federal student aid, there could be a delay thanks to furloughs at the Dept. of Education. Hopefully, since we’re now into October, this won’t affect too many student borrowers.

Federal courts will continue to operate so long as reserve funds hold out. That’s expected to be about two weeks, but not every federal agency involved in lawsuits will necessarily be appearing in court during the shutdown.

In its shutdown plan [PDF], the Federal Trade Commission — which investigates and brings civil complaints in all manner of consumer fraud and deception cases — explains that “Employees responsible for law enforcement matters in litigation will, in the cases where there is no immediate risk to life or property, notify opposing parties and the courts of the government shutdown and attempt to negotiate suspensions of dates for hearings and filings.”

What about the Internal Revenue Service? Well, it won’t be performing audits during the shutdown, but the inability for the federal government to spend money apparently doesn’t get anyone off the hook for any taxes or tax returns they might owe the IRS come Oct. 15.

Airport screening will continue, but may move even more slowly than usual. The Dept. of Homeland Security is only putting about 7% of TSA employees on furlough during the shutdown. Additionally, because many DHS employees are either fall under the “ensure the safety and security of the nation and its citizens” condition or are not funded via congressional appropriations, only about 13.5% of the agency’s total staff will be furloughed.

Similarly, nearly 85% of Justice Dept. employees — including all FBI and ATF agents, many DEA agents, and U.S. Attorneys — will continue to work. Federal prisons will also remain operational, which we hadn’t even considered a possibility (though it would make a kick-ass movie).

So let’s just hope that this all ends soon. In addition to the all the federal employees being idled — and all the businesses nationwide that will be negatively impacted — the cost of getting things started back up again increases with each day that the shutdown continues.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.