The Trump Administration promised that Americans tax refund payments will be sent out in a timely manner, despite the fact that the IRS is one of the agencies currently affected by the government shutdown. Russell T. Vought, acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, told reporters that "tax refunds will go out" during the shutdown, reversing longstanding policy to the contrary.
This may sound like welcome news to individuals and families who file their taxes early, but it's not clear whether the Administration has the legal authority to do what they are promising. Not just that, but upwards of ninety percent of IRS workers are currently furloughed due to the government shutdown and the ten percent remaining are higher level political appointees that don't handle refund checks.
In an attempt to work around that, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal that he will require IRS employees to return to work, without pay, to help with the filing season and to begin issuing refunds.
However, many House Democrats caution that the Administration doesn't have the legal authority to issue refunds during a government shutdown because refunds are sent out using the government’s general fund, which is included in the current shutdown fight. I tend to agree with Chairman Neal's assertion that issuing refunds during a shutdown is not legal because the Congress, not the Executive, has the "power of the purse."
So if you are someone who likes to file your taxes early then beware that it's not a guarantee you'll be getting your refund while the government is shut down. If the shutdown is resolved in the next couple of weeks then no one will have anything to be concerned about, but if it drags on for some time then we'll be in uncharted territory and the courts will have to decide what the next steps are.