What if I want to ... ?

1040 tax form

Mail a letter

Go ahead and lick the stamp. The U.S. Post Office will remain open during the shutdown because it -- like Amtrak -- has its own revenue stream. You also can mail your IRS tax payment. IRS payment deadlines are determined by postmark.

Receive a tax refund

No. The Internal Revenue Service won't process income tax refunds during the shutdown, particularly paper returns mailed in -- about 30 percent of all returns. One bonus: There won't be any audits during the shutdown either.

Buy a home with FHA guarantee

Nope. Federal Housing Administration loans -- which make up about 30 percent of all housing loans in the country --will not be processed during the shutdown.

Contact my congressman

Maybe. Some staffers might not work. Office chiefs for U.S. senators spent Wednesday reviewing their plans. U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn's office said it would remain fully staffed and open for business.

Launch a boat into Cape Romain

Sorry. Gates would be closed at the boat landings.

See a doctor at a VA hospital

Make the appointment. Veterans Affairs hospitals receive multiyear appropriations, which means they won't be affected by a shutdown.

Get a passport on Saturday, which is Passport Day in the USA

Sure. There will be no interruption for applications taken on Passport Day at three Lowcountry locations -- the Summerville, Mount Pleasant and Johns Island post offices.

Go to the air show

Keep your eyes peeled. So far, the 2011 Air Expo is still a go at the Charleston Air Force Base on Saturday. But the Department of Defense was doing its shutdown planning on Wednesday.

Get paid for my contract job

Maybe. There are a few billion dollars' and tens of thousands of workers' worth of federal contract work under way in the Lowcountry, what with the military and other agencies. The impact would vary from company to company. At least a few already plan to furlough employees. Manufacturers like Force Protection plan to keep plugging away. They have contracts, after all, communications director Tommy Pruitt said. The shutdown "will have really minimal impact, if any," he said.

Carry my giant-size shampoo bottle on a plane without being scrutinized by security

Not likely. Transportation Security Administration personnel likely would be deemed essential and stay on the job.

Set off an emergency locator beacon offshore

Yep. Military and federal law-enforcement officers, including the U.S. Coast Guard, will remain on the job. If the shutdown lingers, it's unclear when they may receive their paycheck for work done after Friday.

Apply for a small-business loan

Nope. The shutdown would shut down small-business loans -- and White House officials said they fear that could further slow the nation's economy.

Get an environmental permit

Nope. All permit-processing for air, land and water pollution will be put on hold during the shutdown.

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Receive Medicare reimbursement

Yep. Medicare is funded for at least a short period of time. The National Institute of Health would suspend admitting any new patients or beginning any new clinical trials.

Run my tourist business

Not so well. During the 1995 shutdown, businesses adjacent to parks across the nation lost an estimated $14 million a day. Locally, Fort Sumter Tours alone lost more than $10,000. Hotels, restaurants and retailers also would be likely to lose tourism business.

Gas up my car

Cheaper. Weirdly enough, a shutdown could spur a drop in the nearly $4-per-gallon prices for gasoline. Millions of employees wouldn't be driving to work, millions others might change travel plans and that means less gasoline consumption, said Tom Crosby of AAA Carolinas. If demand drops, "I can't see it having anything but a positive effect on the price," he said.

Smuggle through the Charleston port

Don't. The shutdown probably would not affect front-line federal law enforcement operations, which the government considers to be essential to the country's safety and welfare of the country. Byron Miller, spokesman for the State Ports Authority, said customs agents continued to screen cargo during past shutdowns.

Wrap up marine research for my degree/paper/book

Not in the lab. The NOAA Center/Hollings Marine Lab facility at Fort Johnson will be locked up, even though eight of every 10 people working at the lab alone aren't federal employees.

Complain to the government

Good luck with that. A lot of federal officials on Wednesday handled specific questions about a prospective shutdown just about like you'd expect. Most media inquiries were directed to Washington, D.C., offices, whose public affairs people in turn directed them to the Office of Management of the Budget, Executive Office of the President. The OMB staffers told reporters to file questions by email. As of Wednesday evening, emails from The Post and Courier were not answered.