TurboTax Server Delays Cause Late Filings

Some people who filed at the last minute using TurboTax fell victim to clogged servers.

A California company that makes the popular TurboTax and ProSeries tax software said it expects to hear from the Internal Revenue Service on Wednesday whether any taxpayers who used its e-filing system would be penalized for submitting late returns. A flood of last-minute tax filers swamped the servers of Intuit (INTU) on Tuesday, causing hours-long delays in getting forms sent in electronically to the government, said Harry Pforzheimer, a spokesman for the company. “We have talked to the IRS because of the amount of returns we are still filing,” Pforzheimer said. “It’s fair to say the IRS understands what the situation is.”

A record number of returns from both individual taxpayers and accountants started causing delays early Tuesday in customers receiving online confirmation their tax returns were submitted successfully, he said. As the midnight filing deadline approached, the problem got worse. During times of peak demand, Intuit was processing 50 to 60 returns per second, he said. “The amount of filing that has been done today has been absolutely amazing, and we are doing everything we possibly can to expand capabilities of servers,” Pforzheimer said.

While stopping short of promising that filers whose returns failed to reach the government on time would not face late fees, he described the IRS as sympathetic. “Don’t wait until the last minute is the moral of the story,” he said.

In the end, given that electronic filing (not to mention shoddy and overly conservative filing strategies promoted by such software) saves the government a lot of money, my guess is that the IRS will be reasonable about this.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Anderson says:

    The whole notion of privatized e-filing, instead of being able to do it over an IRS website, is idiotic. Only in America, I suspect.

  2. James Joyner says:

    I understand that you can indeed file directly with the IRS. TurboTax and others help you prepare your returns by asking a series of questions. I used them for several years but, as my tax situation got more complicated, was apparently screwing myself out of quite a few legit deductions.

  3. Bithead says:

    Personally, I would lay at least soem of the blame on the idiots who waited until the last second.

    It’s like getting up at 5 to 8 in the monring jumping in the car and being your nose outta joint because there’s traffic on your ride in.

  4. Steph says:

    We were smart and did them weeks ago. Did them ourselves but didn’t really have a complicated return for us this year.

    We owed some this year so we sent our return in by mail with our check last Friday.

    You get all the information by the end of January. There is no excuse to wait until the last minute. And you can drop return in the mail.

    But I did help out a coworker. Last week she was talking about all the dental work she had done last year. I told her it could be deductible.

    She didn’t have time to put it together by yesterday and is getting a refund either way so I told her to file an extension.

    It looks like her dental deduction is bigger than the standard one and she’ll get about 200 dollars more.

  5. James Joyner says:

    If you’re paying, especially a non-trivial amount, it makes sense to delay–albeit not until quite literally the last minute. Simply putting the return in the mail makes sense if you’re filing early but if you’re filing latish you’ll want a return receipt.

  6. carpeicthus says:

    I filed at the last minute because, as a freelancer, I was definitely paying a non-trivial amount. This was before the glut, but TurboTax still kept giving me error messages that didn’t make sense. Luckily, the NYC post office was, to my utter shock, almost empty come deadline time.

  7. lunacy says:

    I filed Monday morning with TurboTax, yet this afternoon I get email notification that my filing occurred today, the 18th.

    I wouldn’t call Monday morning the last minute if I have thru Tuesday afternoon.

    However, I am miffed that the turbotax effort on Monday morning didn’t get me a “postmark” of the time I actually hit the submit button.