Possible federal shutdown could slow tax returns, force troops to work without pay

By AMY JONES / Associate Editor

The current Congressional standoff over the federal budget could mean federal employees in Shelby County would be placed on furlough if the two sides don’t come to a compromise by midnight April 8.

Midnight April 8 is when a continuing resolution between Republicans and Democrats will expire. If a budgetary compromise isn’t found by then, the federal government will shut down, said Tim Johnson, press secretary for Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala.

“You’d have to have something else in place, which would either be a long-term deal or another short-term resolution,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the United States Post Office would continue to run, Social Security benefits would continue to go out, Medicare and Medicaid would still operate and veterans hospitals would continue to run.

However, tax returns filed through the post office would not be processed until furloughs end, said Alabama-area IRS spokesperson Dan Boone.

“The IRS will continue receiving tax returns of all types, but will only be processing electronic returns. Those will process automatically,” he said. “Most people filing electronically should get their refunds without delay.”

Boone said the IRS will operate with a limited number of staff, which would file and organize returns sent through the post office, but would not process such returns.

Boone said the tax deadline will still be April 18. Anyone needing time beyond that deadline should file an extension request, he said.

All local walk-in IRS offices will be closed, but the website, IRS.gov, and the toll-free hotline number, 1-800-829-1040, will still be available.

According to a memo from the Department of Defense, U.S. troops will work without pay in the event of a federal shutdown.

“All military personnel will continue in a normal duty status regardless of their affiliation with excepted or non-excepted activities,” the memo read. “Military personnel will serve without pay until such time as Congress makes appropriated funds available to compensate them for this period of service.”

Johnson said the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill April 7 that would ensure the troops and their families are paid, but the U.S. Senate has not acted on the legislation. The Senate would need to pass the bill and then President Barack Obama would need to sign it into law before it could go into effect.

Bachus said he is optimistic the government will come to a compromise before the deadline.

“The debt is the single biggest threat to our economic future and even to our national security. The American people realize this and have sent a clear message that they want spending reduced,” Bachus said in a statement. House Republicans responded and, joined by a significant number of conservative Democrats, sent a bipartisan bill to reduce spending to the Senate. As of this afternoon, Majority Leader Harry Reid has refused to act. However, I am optimistic that we will come to an agreement and the government will not shut down.”