Intuit overwhelmed by last-minute tax filers

TurboTax wasn’t too turbocharged this year for some last-minute users who waited right up to the deadline to file. Intuit’s message boards lit up with comments from angry customers who were either delayed or weren’t able to file at all. TurboTax developer Intuit says it’s sorry for the problems, and has worked out arrangements with the IRS for those affected.

“Yesterday was a huge volume day for our back-end electronic filing,” said Intuit spokesperson Julie Miller. “As a result, we had a significant slowdown in our ability to process and transmit electronic returns to the IRS. This happened both with TurboTax and our professional return service.”

Miller described April 17th as the highest-volume day Intuit has ever seen “and then some.” She wasn’t able to provide specifics on how many users filed electronic tax returns at the last minute — Intuit may provide some clarification during their next quarterly earnings statement in May, however.

Intuit has made the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) aware of the volume problems, and Miller indicated that the government organization is prepared to provide a two-day extension to tax filers dependent on Intuit’s technology. Miller said the IRS should publish a statement soon.

The IRS has extended a similar grace period to residents in some northeastern states affected by a major “Nor’easter” rainstorm earlier this week as well that caused significant flooding and wind damage in some areas.

“We do our best to forecast traffic based on peak days so we can deliver the best experience we can, but yesterday was well beyond our expectations,” Miller said.

Intuit expects the trend towards consumer adoption of e-filing to continue. “About half of all returns filed last year were e-filed,” said Miller. “I expect that’ll be up this year. That trend continues to impact our business, and unfortunately yesterday caused some of our customers some aggravation.”

At the end of the day, Intuit’s willing to admit it underestimated it customers’ need on tax day, and that gives them food for thought going forward.

“We think our customers should be able to file right up to the deadline,” said Miller. “We want that process to be seamless and easy.”

H&R Block saw no such capacity problems, said spokesperson Denise Sposato. The company’s volume of electronic tax returns grew 14 percent this year, said Sposato, and it made sure it would be prepared for the increased load.

H&R Block offers professional tax preparation services in addition to TaxCut, a a tax filing software package that returned to the Mac this year following a brief hiatus. TaxCut competes with TurboTax.

Editor’s note: Updated with comment from TaxCut maker H&R Block.

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