Last-minute taxpayers unable to file their returns online because of an IRS computer problem got some welcome news Tuesday: You will now have until midnight Wednesday.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin gave that assurance, later confirmed by the IRS, which he oversees.
“We’ll make sure taxpayers have extensions once the system comes up to make sure they can use it, and it in no way impacts people paying their taxes,” Mnuchin told reporters in New Hampshire, The Associated Press reported. “It was just a technical issue we’re working through.”
As of 5:05 p.m. ET, the IRS’ site appeared to be working again after being down much of Tuesday.
The glitch affected the tax agency’s Direct Pay system, which lets people pay an estimate of taxes directly from their bank account free of charge.
Earlier in the day, those trying to pay through this method were greeted with an error message that said: “This service is temporarily unavailable. We are working to resolve the issue. Please come back later and try again, or you can visit the Make a Payment page for alternative payment methods. We apologize for any inconvenience.”
The IRS website also noted that “your tax payment is due although IRS Direct Pay may not be available,” so those looking to file should pay through the department’s other methods, which may include debit or credit cards and associated fees.
The tax agency issued a statement that acknowledged the problem. “Currently, certain IRS systems are experiencing technical difficulties. Taxpayers should continue filing their tax returns as they normally would.”
Acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter faced the unenviable position of alerting taxpayers and Congress to the embarrassing problem when he testified at a Tax Day hearing on Tuesday before the House Subcommittee on Healthcare, Benefits and Administrative Rules.
“On my way over here this morning, I was told that a number of IRS systems are unavailable at the moment,” Kautter said during his opening statement. “We are working to resolve this issue.”
Kautter once again addressed the issue later Tuesday, saying in a statement “the IRS apologizes for the inconvenience this system issue caused for taxpayers” on the busiest tax day of the year.
Nonetheless, the Internet was not pleased.
The IRS has faced computer problems in the past, notably including a 2015 cyber hacking incident that potentially gained access to personal data from more than 700,000 taxpayer accounts.
The information put at risk included Social Security numbers, birth dates and other data that cyber thieves could use to impersonate a real taxpayer, file a false federal tax return and collect a refund.
In the hacking case, the unidentified electronic attackers got in by taking taxpayer information they acquired elsewhere and using it to correctly answer personal identity-verification questions in the “Get Transcript” application on the agency’s website.
At least seven federal audits and other reports about the IRS and computers from 2007 to 2014 outlined dangers that ranged from failures in database controls to hiring an ex-con without a background check and failing to screen for other workers who had access to personal data for millions of taxpayers.
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