IRS building in Washington. IRS building in Washington.

The Internal Revenue Service’s online filing system was malfunctioning on Tuesday — the day tax returns are due for most taxpayers.

“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.”

Every year the IRS processes more than 120 million tax returns that arrive by mid-April and spits back some $300 billion in refunds. Tax Day is on April 17 this year, since April 15 was a Sunday and April 16 was a holiday in Washington.

The IRS is currently unable to accept information transmitted from software providers, David Kautter, acting commissioner of the IRS, said after testifying at a congressional hearing on Tuesday. He said taxpayers won’t be penalized because of the issue.

“On my way over here this morning, I was told a number of systems are down at the moment,” Kautter said during the hearing. The problem was discovered in the early morning hours between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m., according to Kautter.

The IRS is unsure whether a hardware or software issue is to blame, or if it was a cybersecurity issue — but indications are that the problem is internal, Kautter said.

Alert Message

An alert message pops up when users select “Bank Account (Direct Pay)” on the agency’s website; it says the service is currently unavailable. The same message appears when choosing to apply for a payment plan or view account information.

Kautter added that taxpayers won’t be punished for the IRS’s issues. “If we can’t solve it today, we’ll figure out a solution,” Kautter said. “Taxpayers would not be penalized because of a technical problem the IRS is having.”

Tom Nemet, an accountant in Hamden, Connecticut, said that his software had shown the IRS system was down when he tried to send in client returns earlier Tuesday. Nemet said he thought those returns and six-month extensions would still be considered as filed on time.

“We understand that the IRS is experiencing technical difficulties today with the transmission of direct tax return payments,” Representative Richard Neal, the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement. “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.”

House lawmakers are scheduled to vote this week on a package of bipartisan bills to retool the agency — including modernizing its information technology systems. The package wouldn’t require appropriators to provide additional money to the agency.

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