IRS computers that went down after a major failure are now recovering. However, those who attempted to get a head start on their annual tax filing ritual may have to wait a bit longer.
Twenty-four hours after first announcing that several of its tax processing systems and tools had gone down, the IRS confirmed Thursday that its services are now back up. However, some reports indicate that though some features and processes available to those seeking to file their returns and claim refunds on the official IRS site are now active, the agency cautioned that certain programs continue to remain offline.
It might take some more time to get all the tax processing systems and tools back up and running smoothly. What’s concerning is that the IRS admitted that it expects to issue nine out of 10 refunds within 21 days of receiving a tax filer’s return. What this may mean is that IRS is aware that the tax refund process might be delayed for a small number of people, despite the agency claiming to have the computers running again.
Update: IRS has resumed processing individual and business tax returns; important information for taxpayers https://t.co/4G7MFB4xUD
— IRS (@IRSnews) February 5, 2016
With tax filing season gathering steam and people gearing up to enter their financial details within the IRS computers, having them go down at such a juncture was one of the worst timings for the agency. Despite the justifiable trepidation that people who have already filed their tax returns must be suffering from, IRS has assured that such people need not take any action. Interestingly, IRS has the same advice for people who filed just before or during the outage.
Notably, H&R Block and TurboTax had managed to hold on to the returns they received during the outage, reported Channel 3000. These platforms have now resumed sending tax returns to the IRS computers.
Alert: Many IRS systems unavailable due to outage; important information for taxpayers https://t.co/1MN0lboEk3
— IRS (@IRSnews) February 4, 2016
Though there’s no way to confirm exactly how many people have filed their returns up until the time the computers went down, about 27 million people had their records processed by this time last year. Incidentally, nearly all of the tax returns that were processed had been e-filed. Moreover, 19.5 million of these filers were awaiting refunds. Average payout by the IRS was approximately $3,660.
What caused the IRS computers to go down? The systems collecting your tax forms aren’t running on cutting edge technology or hardware. The IRS didn’t divulge what caused the computer failure owing to the sensitivity of the department. It merely issued a standard response which read as follows.
“We are examining the underlying cause… as well as monitoring any follow-up issues. We believe there was a hardware failure.”
Owing to painfully consistent budget cuts, the agency’s efforts to modernize its technologies have been held up. The situation is reporteldy so bad, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told a Senate panel in February 2015 the following.
“We’re running applications we were running when John F. Kennedy was president. Some IRS systems still use the COBOL programming language.”
The COBOL programming language has long been considered obsolete and has even been taken out of the syllabus of computer languages taught in modern day colleges. It is interesting to note that the government spends more than $2 billion a year on technology operations. Asked how the IRS could still be running such archaic systems, Koskinen explained that the money has been going into “upgrading its systems, which were customized for the IRS in the 1950s and 1960s.”
Even though computers are running, the agency noted that it is “still assessing the scope of the outage,” and thinks that “any disruptions will be minimal,” reported Consumerist.
Though there are reports that indicate it was a hardware failure that caused the IRS computers to go down, the agency mentioned it was working with its e-file software transmitters and the tax community during the outage.
— IRS (@IRSnews) February 5, 2016
[Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images]