Another Taxing US Tax Day

So what happened this year?

The revenue collection agency’s e-file system was having undisclosed technical difficulties, effectively falling offline and unable to accept tax form submissions on tax day. If only someone could have foreseen that tax payers and servers might get VERY busy on Tax Day…..

Due to the IT collapse the IRS gave everyone an additional day to file their 2017 taxes. The deadline became Wednesday, April 18 as social media users vented public outrage and the IRS was forced to apologise on Twitter.

What actually went wrong?

The agency’s website for making payments and gaining access to other key services was down, due to what Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin  described as a “high-volume technical issue.” But this year’s fail still leaves many questions unanswered. Was this event avoidable? Are COBOL based systems truly to blame? How should the IRS avoid a similar event next year?

While we may never fully understand the true reasons for the outage, it seems that the tough lessons from the past have not been taken on board. Read my blog post from 2016 if you believe this is a déjà vu.

Blaming the Users?

‘High volume technical issue’ sounds to me like a simple issue with the volume of traffic hitting the site at the same time. Server overload in layman’s terms. Happily the technology exists to deal with these peak days, ensure that deadlines aren’t missed and the service levels customers expect in today’s digital economy can be met. With a rich set of tools that helps to identify issues before going live and the possibility to scale up to 5 million virtual users and generate load from different geographic locations across the US (and the world) without the need for the customer to set up an environment, Micro Focus technology helps optimize website performance, improve the user experience and most importantly uncover issues before the public does. If you’re interested in discovering how Micro Focus could help you maintain the high levels of performance on those peak load days please don’t hesitate to contact us and discuss options, we’d be more than happy to help.

Enter the usual scapegoat

Sadly whenever these situations arise, the knee-jerk reaction is to assume that because some of the systems are ‘longer in the tooth’  they must be to blame.  Although blaming COBOL systems for this type of outage is highly convenient, it’s also highly inaccurate.  You only need to check out our recent COBOL survey to find out how far off the mark these statements are.

One easy answer: IT Modernization

The enterprise class systems that form the backbone of the IRS could easily be ported to new high performance platforms including Linux, .NET, the Java Virtual Machine or even the Cloud. This would provide greater flexibility for future digital demand while protecting the investments from the past.

Modernizing the IT infrastructure wouldn’t prevent the occasional hardware failures that occur in every sector.  In many cases, mitigation rather than prevention is the watchword. But testing applications for load, and working with solid disaster recovery technology would be far more constructive than blaming older technology…

Check out the IT modernization story at the U.S. Small Business Administration where the ported a core loan servicing application to a new environment, improving application performance and the end user experience while reducing cost. Modernizing core business systems isn’t impossible but does require planning and proven technology in order to succeed.  Micro Focus offers a variety of IT modernization and performance assessment services to assist our clients along their journey of transformation.  Getting started coulnd’t be easier.  We’re ready when you are.


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