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Some IRS servers down during crucial filing week

October 12, 2010

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NEW YORK – Maybe they just need an extension.

A planned computer server outage over the holiday weekend went awry for the Internal Revenue Service on Tuesday, when the tax agency couldn't bring the system back into operation until late in the day.

The glitch came four days before the deadline for filing 2009 returns for taxpayers who got extensions in April.

The IRS notified tax preparers that its "modern e-file" system was back it operation at 3:45 p.m.

The outage doesn't appear to have caused huge problems.

That's mainly because it involved only the updated version of the e-filing system. The one in use for years remained in operation, and large tax-prep companies like H&R Block Inc. and Intuit Inc.'s TurboTax said their programs would default to the older version if returns submitted to the modernized system did not go through.

An IRS spokesman said returns submitted by individuals from home computers are generally held by service providers, and would be submitted when the system is restored.

The IRS expects up to 10 million returns from individuals who got extensions.

Benson Goldstein, the senior technical manager for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants said right now, the modernized system can only accept certain forms. Since the people who request extensions often have complicated returns, their paperwork would be more likely to be submitted under the older, "legacy" system, he said.

The IRS spokesman said the agency is working on bringing the systems up as soon as possible, but couldn't project when it would be fully restored.

The IRS expects as many as 10 million tax returns from individuals who filed for extensions.

Friday is also the deadline for thousands of small nonprofit organizations to file makeup paperwork under an amnesty program. Groups that have not filed required forms in the last three years risk losing tax-exempt status if they don't file by then.

The IRS sent an alert to professional tax preparers early Tuesday, warning them not to try to access its "modernized e-file system," an updated version of the system used for electronic returns that is being phased in over four years.

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