The IRS’s e-file system is down


The IRS’s e-file system is overtaxed.

Just a few hours before the 2018 tax filing deadline (on April 17) the e-filing system went offline.

The site’s error message indicates that the e-file system is down for a “planned outage” — which, if true, indicates extremely poor planning on the IRS’s part. However, the error message also says that the site will be back up either in September 2016 or in December 9999 — which indicates that perhaps the error message indicating a “planned outage” is, itself, an error and something else has gone wrong.

The tax deadline is April 17 at midnight in a filer’s local time zone, so the outage, as of this writing, leaves last-minute filers on the East Coast with less than 12 hours for the problem to be fixed.

It’s not clear what exactly caused the IRS system outage. But the IRS ought to be prepared for a last-minute rush of web traffic. In past years, the IRS site has often been the most visited government website in the week before taxes were due. In 2017, according to weekly IRS data, 13.6 million people filed their taxes online from April 15 to April 21, and 18.2 million people visited during that time. (The 2017 deadline was April 18.)

In 2017, congressional Republicans promised to use tax reform to simplify the tax code, with House Speaker Paul Ryan and others advocating for taxes so simple they could be filed on a postcard. The tax reform they actually passed in December 2017 did not live up to that standard (even though they are pretending it does).

Meanwhile, the system outage may cause some Americans to use TurboTax rather than filing their taxes themselves — especially because TurboTax allows some taxpayers to file their federal returns for free — thus driving more business to a company that has also lobbied to keep the tax code complicated.

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