As tax preparers and taxpayers scrambled to file their tax returns before the midnight deadline on Tuesday, parts of the Internal Revenue Service’s online filing system were not working. They came back online after an hours-long crash, and the IRS said Tuesday evening it will give taxpayers an extra day to electronically file their tax returns.

Taxpayers looking to pay their taxes or estimated taxes from their bank accounts using the IRS’s Direct Pay function were greeted with this message: “Alert: This service is currently unavailable. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

A similar message greeted users looking to apply for a payment plan or view account information. Published reports said that parts of the Modernized e-File System were also down, and that filings from services like H&R Block and TurboTax were not getting through.

“Currently, certain IRS systems are experiencing technical difficulties,” the IRS said in a statement. “Taxpayers should continue filing their tax returns as they normally would.”

According to reports, Acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter told a congressional hearing this morning that he was aware that certain systems were “unavailable,” but that the service was working on the problem.

Acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter testifying before Congress in February 2018
Acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter testifying before Congress in February 2018 Bloomberg News

He was also reported as saying that taxpayers would not be penalized because of the service’s technical problems.

“We understand that the IRS is experiencing technical difficulties today with the transmission of direct tax return payments,” said House Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Richard Neal, D.-Mass., in a statement. “Tax Day is already a stressful time for millions of Americans, even when everything goes right. Given this news, I hope that the IRS will make accommodations so that every taxpayer attempting to file today has a fair shot to do so without penalty.”

The glitches come at a time of budget crunches at the IRS, and serious concerns about the service’s ability to maintain its systems (see "The IRS really needs a new computer system for taxes").

“While we don’t yet know what has caused this systems failure, the lack of … funding for the IRS to serve taxpayers will only compound the issue,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D.-Ore., ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee. “Americans should not be punished for being unable to file their tax returns or pay their tax bills today.”

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Updated April 17, 2018 at 5:06PM: As of 4:47 p.m. EST, the IRS had sent out an e-mail alert to saying that the Modernized e-File system was back in service.

Daniel Hood

Daniel Hood

Daniel Hood is editor-in-chief of Accounting Today and Tax Pro Today, and has covered the tax and accounting field for over 20 years.