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Auditors: IRS Web site struggles as tax deadline closes in


April 15, 1999
Web posted at: 8:26 p.m. EDT (0026 GMT)

SAN MATEO, California (CNN) -- While the Internal Revenue Service has been touting its electronic income tax-filing service, an Internet auditing company says the agency's Web site is struggling to meet demand.

Downloading the IRS page took an average of 14.5 seconds Wednesday, according to Keynote Systems, a California company that monitors Internet performance. But that response time had slowed to nearly a minute and a half by the middle of the day, Keynote reported.

The company attributed the slowdown to the rush of late filers trying to meet Thursday's midnight deadline.

"Performance deteriorated dramatically on April 14 as an onslaught of last-minute filers simultaneously attempted to access the IRS Web site during business hours and encountered congestion," the company said Thursday.

The sites that make up the company's Keynote 40 index, by comparison, loaded in an average of 5.6 seconds, Keynote officials said. Keynote rated the IRS site's availability at 93.6 percent, while the other sites were rated at 96.6 percent.

The IRS has encouraged taxpayers to file their returns electronically, saying they are more likely to make the submission deadline. The federal revenue agency says 50 percent more people have used its Web site this year compared to 1998. Most people still file their tax returns by mail.

"Electronic filing is very practical, right up to the last minute, because you are going to get your return in quicker. You don't have to worry about a line at the post office," IRS spokesman Anthony Burke said.

Filing electronically also cuts down drastically on the error rate, according to the IRS.

Some taxpayers who file their tax returns on the Internet also encountered another glitch this week when the online connection for the tax-preparation software package TurboTax was down Tuesday for more than 14 hours, the company said.

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