IRS processing systems back online after Tax Day hardware issue

Best listening experience is on Chrome, Firefox or Safari. Subscribe to Federal Drive’s daily audio interviews on Apple Podcasts or PodcastOne.

The IRS brought its processing systems back online Wednesday morning after a hardware issue prevented some taxpayers from submitting tax returns online.

The agency gave taxpayers an extra day to file their taxes due to the website outage. Individuals and businesses with a filing or payment originally due on April 17 will now have until midnight on Wednesday, April 18, the IRS said in a statement Tuesday night.

As of 9 a.m. Wednesday, the IRS has accepted more than 14 million tax returns since fixing the hardware problem.

“IRS teams worked hard throughout the night,” Acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter said in a statement on Wednesday. “We are back up and running. The overnight performance means that the IRS is current with all of the tax submissions, and no backlog remains.”

The outage affected the IRS’ Direct Pay system, which the agency uses to collect payment from taxpayers who owe money on their income taxes.

The IRS discovered the systems malfunction early Tuesday, on the busiest day of the tax filing season.

While there is no official estimate yet of how many people of how many people were affected by Tuesday’s outage, last year the IRS received about 5 million returns on the last day of the 2016 tax filing season.

Kautter told reporters following a congressional hearing that the outage affected the “ability of the IRS systems to accept what’s being transmitted to the system,” meaning private tax preparers trying to submit tax returns to the agency.

“On my way over here this morning, I was told that a number of IRS systems are unavailable at the moment. We are working to resolve this issue, and taxpayers should continue to file their returns as they normally would,” Kautter told members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Kautter said the agency discovered the outage in the early morning hours, sometime between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m.

“They’re trying to file electronically, and we can’t accept them electronically. We just can’t do it,” he said, referring to tax service providers trying to submit tax filing information to the IRS.

Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) asked Kautter to explain how the online glitch could’ve happened on the IRS’ busiest day of the year.

“In a real sense, this is game day for the IRS, and it seems the IRS can’t get out of the locker room,” Gianforte said.

Kautter said taxpayers can continue to prepare their tax returns and submit them online as the IRS works to diagnose the problem.

“The challenge we’ve got is between the transmission from the software providers — H&R Block, Intuit — to the IRS. So taxpayers would be unaffected at the moment,” Kautter said, adding that the IRS was using backup systems to bring the services back online.

Mike Lloyd, the chief technology officer for cybersecurity company RedSeal, speculated that the IRS outage was due in part to the increased traffic on the agency’s website.

“Online apps and payment systems are just like underground utilities. They’re built over time, accumulating endless tweaks and patches. Eventually, it’s incredibly hard to understand what’s connected to what, or where the flows have to go. As such, it’s no surprise the IRS payments system fails on the one day it’s most needed. The complexity of their network means it takes too long to find root causes, understand them, and fix them,” Lloyd said in a statement.