Free Minds & Free Markets

You Might Not Get Your Tax Refund If the Government Stays Shut Down

But don't worry! You can still pay the government.

|||Bigapplestock/Dreamstime.comBigapplestock/Dreamstime.comMost Americans have been shielded from the effects of the so-called government shutdown. Post offices continue to run; the federal drug war rages on; the regulatory state thrives. If the shutdown continues through tax season, though, it could have a very serious impact indeed.

Though the government continues to dip its hand into Americans' hard-earned funds, The Wall Street Journal reports that early filers will likely not see their refunds so long as the government remains shut down. But fear not! While the Internal Revenue Service currently lacks the funds to process refunds, it is fully prepared to process tax returns that include payments to the government.

In other words, you can still pay the government, but the government won't be returning anything it took in excess.

While this is less of a concern to later filers, the report notes that lower-income households often rely on early refunds to pay debts or make larger purchases. Indeed, many retailers count on people to spend more money in February.

The partial shutdown began in the days leading up to Christmas, thanks to President Donald Trump's insistence on adding $5 billion for a border wall to a congressional spending package. Trump will have an even harder time pursuing funding for his wall in 2019, now that the House is under Democratic control.

In the meantime, we're stuck with a "shutdown" that fails to shut down the parts of the government that take people's money.

Photo Credit: Bigapplestock/

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  • TxJack 112||

    First thing that needs to be pointed out is if you are getting a refund, you are an idiot because younare letting the Feds use your money INTEREST FREE all year. If you work it so you pay $1000 or less in taxes, that means YOU, not the Feds have benefitted from the use of your money during the year.

  • Bubba Jones||

    Instead it can be in my checking account, earning no interest until my wife spends it?

  • Sevo||

    "Instead it can be in my checking account, earning no interest until my wife spends it?"

    You'd prefer it be in the gov't checking account?

  • ||

    You'd prefer it be in the gov't checking account?

    The choice between paying to fuck my wife and paying to get fucked by the government seems pretty straightforward personally, but TxJack 112 did start off the discussion with the distinct possibility that we'd be debating the decisions of idiots so...

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Plenty of checking accounts make 2.00% APY.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Sorry not checking...savings accounts.

  • Necron 99||

    I miscalculated once and it cost me too much at once. I'd rather err on the side of not having to write a check.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Hence the interest free loan to the Treasury as TxJack112 said.

  • loveconstitution1789||


  • tlapp||

    Exactly, I always make sure I owe a little. Who would overpay someone to get the change back next year?

  • JesseAz||

    For at year of a new tax code. People will have to play with witholdings for a bit to figure out their 0 number. Or pay a tax accountant a hundred or so to figure it out.

  • DajjaI||

    As libertarians we should be a little more gleeful about the shutdown. It's vindication. It's like the biblical 'Jubilee year' - proclaim liberty!

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    This is fair. When I can't pay my debt, I just tell them I'm out of work and everyone understands and lets me go.

  • A Lady of Reason||

    Nice... Well, if it gets us more progress elsewhere it would be worth it...

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Sadly I have seen too many cases of people treating their tax refund like it is some sort of lottery windfall payment. Like government just handing out free money to people, without much thought about where that money came from in the first place (their own paychecks!). The tax return industry (H&R Block, etc.) don't do much to disabuse people of this notion. So if people don't start getting their refunds, that alone will probably lead to demands to reopen the government right away, wall or no wall.

  • H. Farnham||

    I agree. It's bewildering that most people don't make the connection that they're simply getting back a portion of what was already taken from them; they see it almost like a gift from the government. Really though, it stems from a lack of financial literacy in maintaining daily finances. Most likely, the majority of folks receiving large refunds would probably have frittered away that extra money in each paycheck from a lack of budgeting foresight and accountability. In a sense, they very well might be benefitting from a "government-assisted savings plan" (To be clear, I'm not excusing it or saying that it's right).

    It's also worth noting that there's a large portion of Americans (too lazy to look up exact percentages) that actually do receive a "gift" from the government through refundable tax credits (EITC, ACTC, etc.). In other words, their "refund" exceeds their tax liability; so even if they paid in zero federal taxes, they would still receive money after filing.

  • Patches O'Houlihan||

    If you want to see riots in the streets, get rid of withholding and have everyone pay their entire tax bill on April 15.

    In other words, people are idiots. Oh and hats off to Intuit and probably others who blitz people with advertising telling them how FUN! it now is to do their taxes and get that check! Yay! Tax time! Whoever came up with that campaign surely cashed a big paycheck, and rightfully so. Same for the guy who created the campaign for Fed Ex that trained people that the vast majority of the stuff they send from the office absolutely, positively has to get where it's going OVERNIGHT! where it can sit on someone's desk and gather dust.

  • Trainer||

    Many people do get a "refund" that is just money handed to them by the government. It's called Earned Income Credit and people can get upwards of $6,000 if they have enough kids.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    IMO the one single change that will lead to a more libertarian future is the elimination of automatic tax withholding.

  • Patches O'Houlihan||

    Yes, as a wise man told me probably 30 years ago, if you want to see riots have everybody pay their whole tax bill on April 15. After the riots die down and people see the true cost, then we can have a more libertarian future. Well no, probably not. People are idiots.

  • Fk_Censorship||

    I doubt it. Most people don't pay taxes, or at least income taxes. Or they are net tax recipients even if they pay income taxes. So no, most people wouldn't be upset. And some of the ones who should be upset would be too busy working.

  • Jury Nullification||

    "In the meantime, we're stuck with a "shutdown" that fails to shut down the parts of the government that take people's money."

    Would that be in reference to the IRS which has 4,000 guns and over 5 million rounds of ammo.

    "The partial shutdown began in the days leading up to Christmas, thanks to President Donald Trump's insistence on adding $5 billion for a border wall to a congressional spending package."

    Hey, Zuri. I was going to do a FTFY to remedy your sarcastic "thanks" but opted for a more direct and simple "Fuck you" instead. Happy New Year!

    Don't worry as the fervent government hand of redistribution will be up and running in no time. And the delay may even help with refunds for poor Earned Income Credit "taxpayers" that get defrauded by identity thieves who file earlier than them.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Geez. You know, sometimes people getting tax refunds are only getting their own money back.

  • Dillinger||

    >>>In other words, you can still pay the government

    while it's closed. please be that stupid.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    But if the government is shut down, I won't have to pay taxes, so that should be a win, right? Oh, sorry, you mean "shutdown", not Shutdown.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Why anyone would over pay taxes throughout the year to the IRS is beyond me?

    Always make sure you have to pay on tax Day and you will never have this problem.

  • Let freedom ring||

    Tens of thousands of Americans receive full refunds of all withheld taxes, State and Federal, including payroll taxes. This is the only way to reduce federal spending. It is how the Constitution was set up, with the people voting with their money to avoid taxation by not engaging in taxable activities. About 70% of Americans do not engage in a taxable activity, because working for a living in an occupation of common right is not a taxable activity. Working for the federal government, its agencies and instrumentalities, or profiting from THESE activities is not a right, but a federal privilege, and is taxable activity.
    It is sad that after WWII the federal government deceptively turned the Voluntary Victory Tax into a mandatory tax. This was done without changing the laws. It is true that the system is set up so purely private businesses coerce you into signing a W-4 and receiving a W2 . This is theft by deception, your money is technically held IN CASE it was taxable income, even if not. But the remedy is to file an educated return and reclaim all your witholdings. Don't believe me? Check out the testimonials then.

  • Uncle Jay||

    We won't get a refund even though we won't get a refund?
    Well, what's more fair than that?
    Isn't that what the government ruling elites would say?

  • Olga||

    Lots of people prefer to get a refund rather than have to write a big check at the end of the year. Because of my ex-husband's mismanagement, we not only had to write a big check, but also were hit with penalties and interest. Getting a refund is far less stressful.

    People hate the government until they need a service. Having the IRS shut down, can also make it harder to process loan application if you are buying a home. I am starting a new corporate entity, and there are government services that I need to access. We hope most of them are automated.

  • Trainer||

    I'm not seeing a whole lot libertarianism in this post. It just points out how the much unneeded government interference there is in our lives.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    "The partial shutdown began in the days leading up to Christmas, thanks to President Donald Trump's insistence on adding $5 billion for a border wall to a congressional spending package. "

    December 20th of last year, the House approved a spending package with $5.7 billion in wall funding. It was filibustered by Democrats in the Senate, and thus never arrived at Trump's desk to be signed.

    Thus, as a simple factual matter, the partial shutdown was due to the Democratic filibuster of a spending package that DID fund the wall. Not due to the President insisting on funding it, but due to the Democrats insisting that it not be funded.

    I can understand Democratic media always describing shutdowns as being the fault of Republicans, no matter how they actually came about. But I expect better of Reason, if only normatively.

  • ||

    But I expect better of Reason, if only normatively.

    Especially since the underlying 'government shutdown = bad' premise isn't exactly a libertarian keystone. Kinda hard to spend a record deficit when you're shut down and furlowed by obstructionists. Just as Obama.

  • ClosetedConservative||

    And if we don't make some real progress the country will go down the drain...

  • Trainer||

    Low income refund? You mean the wealth re-distribution scheme called Earned Income Credit? "Refund" assumes that you paid something into the system to get it back.

  • jerryg1018||

    It's only the first week in January, most people won't get the information they need to fill out their returns until the end of the month. Many won't do anything until the last minute in April, so don't worry about your refund.

  • Moderation4ever||

    As I usually have to pay additional taxes this is not much of a problem for me. I more worried about dealing with grumpy TSA agents who are not getting paid.


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