The IRS’s direct payment system crashed hard on Tuesday, which just so happens to be the filing deadline for returns from 2017. As a result, numerous taxpayers who waited until the last minute complained that they would be forced to turn to high-fee alternative methods or brave Mad Max-style conditions at the Post Office at the last minute, lest they potentially face late fees on payment.
Good news, though: If you weren’t able to pay today thanks to the IRS’ screwup, there’s still tomorrow. In the early evening the agency extended tax deadlines to Wednesday, April 18th, which means everyone will get one more day to pay without risking those fees.
Per the Washington Post, the IRS is apologizing for any inconvenience to all those extremely relatable individuals who waited until the last minute to file. Current indications are that the downtime was the result of a hardware problem rather than a platform issue or cyberattack which could be harder to sort out:
“This is the busiest tax day of the year, and the IRS apologizes for the inconvenience this system issue caused for taxpayers,” said the agency’s acting commissioner, David Kautter.
An IRS spokeswoman said that “all indications point to this being hardware-related. We’re aware of no other external issues.”
It’s not clear how many people the issue affected, but the Post noted it could have included those who use online tax preparation services like TurboTax or H&R Block. Anecdotally, this writer’s scheduled payment on a pre-filed return on TurboTax seems to have proceeded without issue today, but others may not have been so lucky. Those who waited until Tuesday to schedule payments may need to wait until Wednesday for those transfers to go through.
According to the New York Times, IRS officials have been warning that just this kind of issue could happen for quite a while. Since 2010, the agency’s budget fell from $14 billion to $11.5 billion and lost 20,000 staffers—despite the fact making enforcement more stringent could help reduce the $408 billion gap in underpayments—and as the Times note, the tax code has mostly grown more complicated during that time. IRS computers and software are in dire need of upgrades.
“The I.R.S. needs to upgrade its I.T. infrastructure, not only to help ensure reliable and modern taxpayer services, but also to mitigate risks to the system,” IRS deputy commissioner for operations support Jeffrey Tribiano told the House Ways and Means subcommittee last year, per the Times. “We are concerned that the potential for a catastrophic system failure is increasing as our infrastructure continues to age.”
“I kept telling Congress, if funding continues to be constrained, it’s not a matter of if, it’s a mater of when the system fails,” former IRS commissioner John Koskinen told the paper. “You are really rolling the dice when you operate that way.”