April 18, 2007 in Nation/World

Surge of business clogs TurboTax servers

Ryan Blitstein San Jose Mercury News

SAN JOSE, Calif. – For Intuit’s customers, Tax Day turned out to be even more stressful than they’d feared – and the company faced quite a challenge, too.

The Mountain View, Calif., financial software company’s servers couldn’t cope with the massive Web traffic from last-minute electronic filers. So when some Intuit TurboTax customers logged on to e-file their taxes, they saw error messages and weren’t able to file.

Intuit blamed the problems on what was record site traffic leading up to Tuesday’s midnight tax deadline: More people used TurboTax to file their taxes on Monday and Tuesday than on any pair of days in Intuit history. Twice as many people e-filed with TurboTax on Monday as during the comparable day last year, well beyond the company’s optimistic expectations.

The front end of the TurboTax site, where people enter their tax information, worked well, but the back-end servers that electronically file to the Internal Revenue Service ran slowly. The problems first arose Monday night and continued through about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, although Intuit said that a post-workday peak might cause further problems.

“We understand it’s frustrating for customers. We believe that through the course of the day all these folks will be able to meet the IRS deadline without any problems,” Intuit spokeswoman Julie Miller said mid-day Tuesday.

On Monday and Tuesday, the TurboTax community forums on Intuit’s Web site filled up with messages from users frustrated and confused by the errors, as company tech support workers scrambled to answer questions.

“Is there any chance this will be fixed today or should I snail mail the return,” wrote one user. “Not very happy about the product right now and the $18 I’m paying for this ‘convenience.’ ”

“Intuit told me their servers can not handle the current traffic. No plans to Fix !!!!! Just keep trying,” said another.

On Tuesday morning, the company posted messages on its Web site and sent e-mails advising customers to wait until mid-day, when traffic on the site would slow down. Because its servers and other hardware were processing so many customers through the system, the company could not have added extra servers to deal with the heavy traffic.

Although Intuit has yet to make an absolute guarantee, Miller did say that when the company experienced smaller peak-day slowdowns in prior years, all customers still met the IRS’ midnight tax deadline.

“We will do everything we can to make sure that these customers are absolutely in compliance and meet the deadline,” she said.

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