You might think that with the scandal surrounding the IRS and the resulting budget cuts that have hampered their activities that the organization might become more aware of its procedures and adjust them to appear more customer friendly. If what happened this past week is any indication then they are still living somewhere in the ozone.
Most Americans think of April 15th as the final day for filing their personal income tax return. That is so for most people, but a large part of the population files an extension that allows them to file their return by October 15th as long as all their taxes are paid by that April 15th date. Some people are waiting for documents from third parties, others want extra time to make a contribution to a pension and then there are those who are guilty of the sin of procrastination. I am sure you know the type – give them an extra day to do something and they will take it. With no further relief valves October 15th can be quite manic for tax preparers.
That is why when we received this message from our tax software service we were quite taken aback; “The Internal Revenue Service’s electronic filing system will be shut down for maintenance from October 11-13 reopening sometime on October 14th.” I contacted some colleagues who were just as stunned. They expressed they were mystified as to what the IRS was thinking shutting down this close to the end of tax season. One then informed me that not only is the IRS system for electronic filing (required for all tax preparers and the predominant means of filing all tax returns today) shut down, but their system for electronic payments would be inoperable also. Many taxpayers today either prefer electronic payments or may be required to do such.
I contacted the IRS Press Office to get some answers as to why they would choose such an inappropriate time to do maintenance on their system. I spoke to a staff person who asked me to email him. I sent him a series of questions. I am not quite sure why they wasted my time doing that because after waiting five hours I was not given an opportunity to speak to anyone or actually have my questions answered. What I received was a canned response; “This is an annual three-day maintenance window needed to ensure critical systems are ready for the upcoming 2015 filing season. As many know, the IRS has frequently used the Columbus Day holiday period to minimize impact on the tax community as much as possible. We regret any inconvenience this may cause. Given theOct. 15extension filing deadline, it’s important to note the IRS Modernized e-File system is scheduled to be back online at5:00 am on Tuesday, Oct. 14. The IRS emphasizes that there is a perfection period (after a rejection of an e-filed return) of 5 days (Oct. 20th) for individual returns. The combination of theOct. 14opening and the perfection period should minimize impact on taxpayers and tax professionals.’ If the oddity of this is not clear; this is like Macy’s closing down December 21-23 to prepare for next year’s sales.
It is as if these people are not in the same business as tax preparers and have no idea what we do. I have never met a tax preparer who takes off Columbus Day. If you asked a tax preparer when Columbus Day is celebrated you may not be able to find one who can tell you it is the second Monday of October. Tax preparers take off Columbus Day just like they take off Presidents’ Day in February – never. Almost all tax preparers are not only working Columbus Day, but they are working all three days of that weekend. For the IRS to state that they are minimizing the impact on the tax community is nothing short of delusional.
A question I did not get answered is why the shutting down for maintenance could not be done the weekend after October 15th. I can assure you not only would very few people be affected, it is possible no one would care at all. Two people may be shut down from making tax payments, but few if any tax returns would be filed over that weekend because all tax preparers would be taking the weekend off after the pressure cooker of the final days of tax season. That would be too logical and rational for the IRS to think their way through to a clear decision.
There is also is no assurance that if you have a problem because their system is overloaded and/or crashes (oh, yes it does) that you will not be fined for either filing late or paying late. Even if you are finally exempted you will have to go through a lot of pain, agony and time to get that accomplished.
The IRS still does not get they serve the people of the United States not the other way around. The shutdown of their system for maintenance over Columbus Day weekend is obviously for the benefit of the IRS employees and one can assume lots of overtime is being paid out. One thing that is clear is that this shutdown it is not for the benefit of people filing their returns.