Ways the Government Shutdown Affects You

As it has been almost two weeks since the government shutdown began, most people are well aware that it is in effect.  However, most people have not experienced any effects of the government shutdown firsthand in their daily lives.

If the average citizen has not experienced any ill effects from the government shutdown, what parts of its operations has the government shutdown?

This article provides some of the key things that are not happening while the shutdown is in effect that may affect the most ordinary citizens.

Furlough of Federal Employees

The biggest effect of the shutdown is the furlough of government employees.  A furlough is when employees are told not to work for a finite period of time during which they are not paid.  Their jobs still technically exist, but those individuals will not perform those jobs while the government shutdown is in effect.

Government agencies placed approximately 1 million federal employees on furlough when the government shutdown began.  The number of federal employees on furlough will likely increase the longer the shutdown lasts, as individual agencies run out of emergency funds available to pay employees.

The percent of employees placed on furlough by a given federal agency varies from very few to almost all employees, depending on the services performed by the agency and the amount of emergency funds the agency has available.

Closure of National Parks

If you are planning a trip or vacation to visit a national park or monument, you may need to make other plans.  Over 400 national parks and historic sites are closed during the government shutdown.

The closure of many national parks such as the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone may make sense, as there are no funds available to pay employees who normally staff and operate the parks.  However, the closure of other sites such as open-air monuments without staff has drawn criticism, as there is no clear reason why the government shutdown would prevent tourism of those sites to continue.

Those who work in the tourism industry may also feel the effect of this aspect of the shutdown, as business related to national parks will definitely dip while the shutdown remains in place.

Limits Services from the Internal Revenue Service

Those who filed extensions for their federal income tax returns should still plan to file those returns by October 15.  While the IRS still expects individuals to file and pay their taxes on time, if you have questions about your tax return or the filing process, you may find it difficult to get answers.  IRS offices are not staffed presently to answer questions from taxpayers.  In addition, the IRS will not issue tax refunds until the government shutdown ends.

Although the topic has been raised about providing a further extension for filing tax returns since IRS agents are not available to answer questions, such an extension has not been granted to date.

The government shutdown also means the IRS is not conducting audits of tax returns at present.

Impact to Defense Contractors

The almost 1.5 million Americans on active duty will remain in place during the shutdown, since their service is considered critical to the protection of our nation.  However, other organizations that provide services to the Department of Defense will take a hit.  Lockheed Martin and other defense contractors have announced the furlough of thousands of workers.

In addition, surviving spouse and families of those in the military initially stopped receiving death benefits.  However, a private charity has chosen to step up to pay those benefits in lieu of the government doing so.

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Mark has been a contributor to legal web sites related to bankruptcy, tax, and criminal law since 2011. He has an Accounting degree from Texas A&M University.