Steve Suissa’s accounting and payroll services firm does half of its business with federal government contractors.
Since the partial government shutdown began Dec. 22, Suissa’s firm, SHS Services, has received only half the revenue they would normally generate during the last five weeks.
“My staff is still working. During the payroll world, you still have W2s and 1099s and the end of year financials,” he said, referring to commonly issued pay tax documents.
Come Feb. 1, he said he may be forced to furlough some of his 20 employees if the shutdown continues.
“If the agency is closed, their employees aren’t doing work for those agencies, and there’s no billable work,” he said. “What happens on Feb 1. when there’s nothing left to do because the govcons [government contractors] are shut down?”
The shutdown, which reached its 35th day Friday, is the result of a stalemate over funding for a security wall on the border with Mexico.
Rockville Chamber of Commerce President Marji Graf said certified public accountants are among those who are particularly hurting.
Samreen Sadiq, a CPA with the Rockville consulting firm Taksey Neff & Associates, wrote in an email to Graf that her business is encumbered because it can’t contact the IRS to handle many of their clients’ issues.
Many furloughed IRS employees have refused to return to work despite an order to do so from the Trump administration.
“Some clients have pending audits or installment agreements. Till those agreements are in place, the clients will continue to be assessed tax and penalties for no fault of their own,” she wrote.
Sadiq added that her company also uses IRS transcripts to determine the amount of interest assessed to clients, which impacts business and financial records.
The IRS staff shortage also results in the inability of her firm to run compliance checks on new clients, which prevents the company from gaining more business.
Sadiq added that tax preparers also have more work to do in a short period of time, assuming the April 15 tax deadline is not extended, and clients hoping to refinance or purchase new homes are also having trouble.
“Their mortgage brokers were unable to verify tax filing info for the clients, causing undue grief to an already stressful mortgage application process,” she wrote.
At the Cambria Hotel in downtown Rockville, Front Desk Supervisor Omar Etheridge said the hotel has lost between $500 and $1,000 per night for the last 28 days due to the fact that many out-of-town government contractors, who would normally use the hotel’s conference room, haven’t been traveling.
In addition, Etheridge said the hotel is losing $160 — the normal rate charged for a room — for each guest who would normally stay overnight on their business trip.
“If they don’t want to go into downtown [D.C.] they typically come to us, but we’re not losing as much as downtown D.C.,” he said.
More than 30 small businesses in Rockville and Gaithersburg were represented at a roundtable discussion with U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin, both Maryland Democrats, on Thursday in Rockville.
Van Hollen said he was optimistic that there were enough Republican votes in the Senate to pass a two-week stopgap funding bill, but Trump said late Thursday that he would only accept a deal with no wall funding if it were a “reasonable agreement,” according to a White House correspondent’s pool report.
Suissa said the political debate at the national level has done nothing to help the thousands of Maryland and Montgomery County residents who are out of work due to the shutdown.
“As a business owner, that’s what we care about. Get in a room and fix the problem. It’s hurting our image. The U.S. is supposed to be a strong country and taking care of citizens. It’s really failing of taking care of its citizens,” he said.
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.email@example.com