Taxpayers Get Extra Day To File After IRS Online Tools Go Down

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The IRS extended Tax Day to midnight April 18 after unidentified outages took down key online tools Tuesday.

Tuesday was supposed to be the final day to file 2017 tax returns. However, due to outages that took several online IRS pages offline, the acting commissioner announced an extension late Tuesday, giving taxpayers until midnight on April 18.

“This is the busiest tax day of the year, and the IRS apologizes for the inconvenience this system issue caused for taxpayers,” acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter said in a statement Tuesday evening. “The IRS appreciates everyone’s patience during this period. The extra time will help taxpayers affected by this situation.”

An IRS spokesperson told Nextgov the applications went down due to hardware issues.

"We’re still assessing, but all indications point to this being hardware-related," they said. "We’re aware of no other external issues."

The IRS did not provide any further details on which systems went down or what might have caused the outage.

During a prescheduled hearing Tuesday before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Kautter said he had just been informed about some technical problems with the agency’s online systems

It was not immediately clear which systems were not functioning properly. However, a cursory review by Nextgov staff of the IRS.gov website showed a number of pages not working properly as of 1 p.m., including the direct pay page, the online applications for structured payment plans and the portal where taxpayers can view their account information, among others.

The pages carried an alert at the top: “This service is currently unavailable. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

The IRS operates some of the government’s oldest IT systems: The Individual Master File and the Business Master File are both approximately 58 years old. Efforts to update the IMF are behind schedule, despite the agency shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars.

According to Kautter’s prepared remarks, things were going well for IRS’ IT systems this filing season until today.

“The most visible service the IRS provides each year is delivery of a smooth tax filing season,” he wrote. “I’m pleased to report that the 2018 filing season began on schedule on January 29 and has gone well in terms of tax return processing and the operation of our information technology systems.”

Kautter told the committee Tuesday the agency had accepted 119 million returns as of April 13, 92 percent of which were filed online.

The agency’s auditor also recently reported the agency was on track to stop fewer fraudulent tax returns—a sign the agency’s preventative measures are working.  

During the hearing, Kautter offered a list of priorities for the agency going forward, including the need for technological improvements.

“While all of the IRS’s service channels are important, taxpayer needs have been evolving, with more people conducting their business using digital tools at the time and place of their choosing,” Kautter wrote in his prepared remarks. “The IRS has invested significant resources in developing a series of online tools and applications, such as ‘Where’s My Refund?’ so that those who prefer to interact with the IRS online can do so easily and securely. The plan is to continue investments in online tools and offerings and modernizing the taxpayer experience.”

Editor's Note: The headline and article were updated to reflect a statement from the IRS and tax filing deadline extension.