White House now claims IRS will pay tax refunds during shutdown – which could be illegal
Internal Revenue Service

The White House is scrambling to deal with President Trump's shutdown, after several officials admitted the administration had no idea what shutting down the federal government would do.

Among those affected are over 800,000 federal workers, including many at the IRS, who will not be paid during the shutdown, now in the middle of its third week.

Others who will be affected are the nearly 39 million food stamp recipients, who need those funds to keep food on the table.

But the Trump administration is attacking the effects of the shutdown like a PR campaign, trying to change public perception of the impending crisis.

The White House has just announced, contrary to the IRS's own plan, Americans will get their tax refunds during the shutdown, according to ABC News.

As Vox reported last week, the IRS plan was to furlough all but about 10,000 of its workers, (keeping just 12.5 percent of employees working) thus making processing tax refunds difficult, if not impossible.

Apparently, some of those furloughed will be required to come to work without getting paid – at least until the shutdown is over.

"IRS offices are closed, tax questions are not being answered and there was a concern that refunds to early-filers this year might not be issued on time if the shutdown drags on, financial experts said," ABC News notes.

Meanwhile, some economists and experts are scratching their heads, wondering how Trump will accomplish paying out tax refunds during a federal government shutdown.

Here's a former U.S. Treasury economist:

According to The Hill, the White House order "could be illegal."

“Tax refunds will go out,” the acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, Russell Vought, told reporters Monday.

"But it remains unclear," The Hill notes, "whether the administration has the legal authority to hand out refunds during the partial shutdown, which is now in its third week."

The New York Times also reports that the IRS handing out refunds during a shutdown could be illegal.

"Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee said they began to see indications over the weekend that the White House was looking for a legal justification to reverse existing policy and allow refunds to be issued," The Times reports. "But committee lawyers believe the law prohibits such a move, because refunds are paid out of the government’s general fund."

“We keep trying to call people at I.R.S. and Treasury,” said Daniel Rubin, a spokesman for the Ways and Means Committee, “and there’s no one there.”