The ongoing government shutdown has been big news over the past week as national parks close and other more serious ramifications being to emerge. As we have been reading about the various "essential and "nonessential" government functions that are being run on a small staff or cut completely, we have also learned a lot about the various moving parts of our government system that come together to make it work. Under the law that governs the suspension of government activity and the situation of agencies operating without properly appropriated funding, agencies have to determine whether spending is necessary to prevent imminent harm against safety of human life or the protection of property. 

In the case of the Internal Revenue Service, this means figuring out what operations are essential to protect government property interests. 

That careful determination has led the IRS to cut staff significantly, but leaving the computer systems in place to prevent the loss of data. One of these computer systems is the one that automatically issues tax liens and sends out notices to taxpayers about a dispute. 

While it seems perfectly sensible to keep computer systems up an running, one problem with this plan may be that there is usually some human oversight to the issuing of tax liens and taxpayers who receive a letter that is confusing or contains an error can call and talk to a human at the IRS to figure out the problem. Under the shutdown the employees who would take those calls have been furloughed, leaving taxpayers to try to sort these issues out on their own. This is a time when it can be incredibly helpful to consult with tax professionals who know the laws and can answer questions shutdown notwithstanding.