How the 60-Year-Old IRS Computer System Failed on Tax Day

How the 60-Year-Old IRS Computer System Failed on Tax Day

On Tax Day 2018, the IRS electronic filing system went down. Turns out the government’s computers were still partially relying on code 60 years old written for gigantic IBM mainframes like the Martinsburg Monster. What happened?

● LGR links:

https://www.facebook.com/LazyGameReviews
https://www.patreon.com/LazyGameReviews

● Music used in order of appearance:
“Nautical 2” by Loscil

“Anekbah Theme”

Glancing at the Moon, Open For Business 3, Observations, Driven Electronics 4
http://www.epidemicsound.com

● Sources for this episode’s info:
https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/irs-struggling-shutdown-backlog-laws-antiquated-technology/story?id=60993398

https://archive.org/details/taxpreparati

https://blogs.wsj.com/cio/2018/04/18/irs-grapples-with-decades-old-computer-systems/

https://books.google.com/books?id=kn9eDwAAQBAJ&pg=PA115#v=onepage&q&f=false

https://catalog.archives.gov/id/11899

https://catalog.archives.gov/id/11900

https://catalog.archives.gov/id/11903

https://catalog.archives.gov/id/11905

https://fcw.com/articles/2016/04/08/taxman-tech-troubles.aspx?m=1

https://fcw.com/articles/2018/09/24/irs-tax-day-outage-report.aspx

https://money.cnn.com/2015/02/03/pf/taxes/irs-budget-cuts/index.html

https://spectrum.ieee.org/riskfactor/computing/it/irs-predicted-tax-filing-failure

https://web.archive.org/web/20080320043550/https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=180038,00.html

https://web.archive.org/web/20081019155300/http://blog.modernmechanix.com/2006/10/12/big-brother-7074-is-watching-you/

https://web.archive.org/web/20090508042759/https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=180038,00.html

https://web.archive.org/web/20160526101901/http://oversight.house.gov/hearing/federal-agencies-reliance-on-outdated-and-unsupported-information-technology-a-ticking-time-bomb/

https://web.archive.org/web/20161214091805/https://www.irs.gov/uac/irs-e-file-a-history

https://web.archive.org/web/20180924110604/https://waysandmeans.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/20171004OS-Testimony-Powner.pdf

https://www.archives.gov/files/records-mgmt/rcs/schedules/departments/department-of-the-treasury/rg-0058/n1-058-09-084_sf115.pdf

https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2018-04-17/the-irs-computer-system-is-the-oldest-in-the-government

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/irs-monster-computer-circa-1970/

IRS electronic tax filing system crashes hours from tax day deadline

Here’s what happened when the IRS’s electronic filing system crashed on Tax Day

https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-01-227

https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-16-696T

https://www-01.ibm.com/support/docview.wss?uid=ssg1S1005392&aid=72

https://www.irs.gov/privacy-disclosure/information-returns-master-file-processing

https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pia/imf_pia.pdf

https://www.irsvideos.gov/Professional/IRSWorkProcesses/SubmissionProcessingPipeline

https://www.networkworld.com/article/2226754/the-irs-uses-computers—the-horror-.html

https://www.nextgov.com/it-modernization/2018/03/irs-system-processing-your-taxes-almost-60-years-old/146770/

https://www.nextgov.com/it-modernization/2018/04/irs-60-year-old-it-system-failed-tax-day-due-new-hardware/147598/

https://www.npr.org/2018/04/19/604119723/irs-computer-system-crashes-a-year-after-an-official-warning-was-issued

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/09/25/ibm_tax_day_irs_crash/

https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/auditreports/2013reports/201320125fr.pdf

https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/auditreports/2018reports/201820065fr.pdf

#LGR #TechTales #Taxes

50 Comments

  1. Emily Cooney on March 7, 2020 at 1:31 pm

    6:21 "tech savvy tax practitioners in particular" try saying that five times fast!



  2. mansharker8 on March 7, 2020 at 1:31 pm

    The social security building here in So Cal, was using older beige boxes for ages……and their systems would slowly update data over the course of months and months. The US Government charges more and more taxes and tariff’s but they wont update their aging data processing infrastructure!! lmfao!!



  3. Sean T on March 7, 2020 at 1:32 pm

    Bro….. Pateron. Tech Tail. Series.Tier

    You get the funding to more of these, its clearly what you love and what die hard LGR nerds enjoy.

    We will pay.

    I sense that you’d love top do a full documentary and I think you should talk Blake J Harris, the Author of Console Wars.

    I know a while a go he wanted to do a doc version of the book and tech tails are mini documentaries.

    I can dream.



  4. David Edward on March 7, 2020 at 1:37 pm

    "We need $30k of your money per day to take more of your money."



  5. Jonathan West on March 7, 2020 at 1:37 pm

    LGR tech tales are so addictive.



  6. DaSmoools on March 7, 2020 at 1:39 pm

    Well this is a government that also pays some of its officials anywhere between $100,000 to $400,000 of the taxpayers hard earned cash for basically treating the US Citizen as a means to an end of their own career and life. US Politics revolves around not what best serves the American People, but what best results in that official’s career and life being set up for good. The hell is a single person being paid upto $400,000 a year for? being a public servant? thats.. thats not how a non corrupt system should work. Then again you pay for that road infrastructure to be nice and maintained but is it? nah, likely funneled either into paying those ridiculous paychecks or into paying for something to make your lives even harder, OR paying for the worst developed modern jet to date! F-35, what a wonderful waste of taxpayer money so far.



  7. Jordan Lucero on March 7, 2020 at 1:40 pm

    People: "We love America!"
    Also People: "The Government needs Money to Operate? Un-American!"



  8. Esko Saarinen on March 7, 2020 at 1:41 pm

    This really is the best content youtube has, I really wish Clint had the time and resources to do more content likes this.



  9. Just Some Random Wolf on March 7, 2020 at 1:41 pm

    8:47 This is off topic, but imagine being in that room with all those computers! The click clacking of the keyboards, the whine and loud clicking of old HDDs, the occasional floppy disk reader noise… 🙂 that would be the coolest.



  10. obi kwan on March 7, 2020 at 1:41 pm

    Taxation is extorion. Government is mental slavery.

    the reason their paper tokens have value is that if you do not produce these tokens (which you must work to obtain) at the end of the month or year….

    you get the goonsquad, who will take your property, put you in a cage, and will kill you (and your dog) should you offer resistance.



  11. Khajiit Thundercat on March 7, 2020 at 1:42 pm

    And now the machines will take over the world. T-1000s everywhere!



  12. Tyler Jennings on March 7, 2020 at 1:45 pm

    I bet a huge chunk of our tax dollars went to feeding power to this machine!!! >:(



  13. Windows XP on March 7, 2020 at 1:46 pm

    So my birthday date became tax day?
    **sad birthday noises**



  14. Luis Cañamar - MediaBros on March 7, 2020 at 1:47 pm

    Taxation is theft.



  15. Jack Sack on March 7, 2020 at 1:50 pm

    my grandfather used to build the buildings for the old IBM mainframes, yes, the buildings for them. From what he told us they needed alot of ventillation and he mostly worked on the roof. amazing we have come this far



  16. Flaturiah on March 7, 2020 at 1:51 pm

    Man, I’ve watched every last Tech Tales video now. Can’t wait for your next one, Clint!



  17. Lucía on March 7, 2020 at 1:53 pm

    I wish the IMF were actually replaced by nothing
    And I’m not talking about the Individual Master File



  18. kirby march barcena on March 7, 2020 at 1:53 pm

    The IRS weren’t prepared very well and rushing too much which caused the problem.



  19. Tiago de Aviz on March 7, 2020 at 1:53 pm

    Gotta love those decisions that favor older firmware instead of upgrading it. Dammit, if IBM said the bug was present and it would crash, it’s a gamble from there onwards.



  20. Connor Calarco on March 7, 2020 at 1:56 pm

    Implying that COBOL is the problem is wrong. It is leaps and bound faster than java when working with this amount of data, I heard the reason CADE was cut was because it took 3 days to do the work the COBOL system did overnight on 90’s hardware on modern hardware. You could get those speeds with C sure but the gov doesn’t want to spend that kind of money when people say they could do it cheaper.



  21. 7b7Ben on March 7, 2020 at 1:57 pm

    Eh. I just get my taxes done at -🤫



  22. mccallumcra on March 7, 2020 at 2:01 pm

    If you are worried about security it would make sence to hire all people using a solid old school program that no one understands anymore. Hehe. That way things are kept working properly. Just move the 20 to 40 and continue to keep the punch card system going.



  23. Colin on March 7, 2020 at 2:02 pm

    How Yoshi committed tax fraud



  24. Loren Helgeson on March 7, 2020 at 2:02 pm

    1:28 – Internal Revenue Service: Fairness, Integrity, Efficiency

    In what f&$^ing universe!?



  25. Helladamnleet on March 7, 2020 at 2:03 pm

    Or, now hear me out, OR we could just revert back to them using computers that played nicely with the IMF. Why fix what wasn’t broken.



  26. Christy Shultz on March 7, 2020 at 2:03 pm

    Weirdly enough most of the people in my town if they’re federal employees and some sort still have old and outdated like 1980s to early 90s.

    And weirdly enough they were getting onto some government mainframe.



  27. FastLikeUNO on March 7, 2020 at 2:05 pm

    And imagine, you can probably store a quarter of all those reels on a single petabyte server.



  28. camper tv on March 7, 2020 at 2:07 pm

    why they could not upgrade in 2015



  29. Skorpius on March 7, 2020 at 2:07 pm

    I didn’t know cache overflow could be a problem at the IRS…



  30. ninjacat230 on March 7, 2020 at 2:10 pm

    If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it, I guess



  31. BOBXFILES2374a on March 7, 2020 at 2:11 pm

    Thank goodness the IRS still has those great IBM 360 "brain machines!" I’m so reassured.



  32. michael kotlowski on March 7, 2020 at 2:11 pm

    I’m too broke to owe but I always file at like the second week in January, no thanks irs fucks you aren’t keeping my money ya greety fucks lol



  33. Zachary Drummond on March 7, 2020 at 2:12 pm

    This is such a crazy story.



  34. Ray Fenwick on March 7, 2020 at 2:13 pm

    Very well put together, as always.



  35. Richard Padua on March 7, 2020 at 2:14 pm

    Hey LGR are you stupid sexy mouse pink 😂



  36. Cameron Hall on March 7, 2020 at 2:16 pm

    So their brand new server was actually what caused the problem?



  37. Andreas Hansen on March 7, 2020 at 2:17 pm

    imagine you’re government do your taxes for you this comment is posted by Europe gang



  38. Doctor Doom on March 7, 2020 at 2:17 pm

    Cool but….

    Can the Martinsburg Monster run Doom?



  39. Sean T on March 7, 2020 at 2:18 pm

    Wait…. America has a singular Tax day as apposed to a Tax period for weeks to months that my amazing country allows???

    Or is a deadline?.



  40. Bald Bull on March 7, 2020 at 2:18 pm

    Americans 1955-1978
    Don’t trust the government computers with all your info!

    Present Americans
    Let’s put all our information and pictures on social media!



  41. Naeso on March 7, 2020 at 2:18 pm

    This is why I hate legacy code… instead of replacing it, companies try to make it compatible with more recent software… and at some point, of course it will fail, and at some point, of course they will need to update their programs, and the more time passes, the more it costs to update it. I don’t understand why big companies never understand that.



  42. macbrush on March 7, 2020 at 2:20 pm

    Hey man! I love LGR and especially tech tales. How about doing an episode on Novell and Netware? It’ll be fascinating and extremely popular among old IT dudes like me.



  43. Paul Newhouse on March 7, 2020 at 2:20 pm

    taxation is legalized theft.



  44. Todd no last name on March 7, 2020 at 2:20 pm

    I think it’s stupid that the IRS is now calling us customers. We’re not customers. A customer can take their business elsewhere. We’re taxpayers. And I try to treat the people I interact with us such. Except the people I interact with don’t actually pay taxes, but take money out of the kitty.

    Of course, we could double or triple the number of exams we do, and we still wouldn’t scratch the surface. I’d say at least once a week I see another return that should be looked at, but we don’t have the manpower to pursue it.



  45. Neocon Ingsoctrination on March 7, 2020 at 2:25 pm

    They pissed away the money needed to modernise the IRS information systems on the idiot Iraq War.



  46. Screw The Net on March 7, 2020 at 2:28 pm

    By the GODS I love old tech. From everything from the first electromechanical machines, especially the history of arcade gaming from lawn games centuries ago, to billiards 300 years ago, to the first slot machines. Hell supposedly the first vending machine was for holy water in ancient rome 2000 years ago. LOVEIT! ^~^



  47. camper tv on March 7, 2020 at 2:28 pm

    what the heck OMG



  48. PREDATOR FTW on March 7, 2020 at 2:28 pm

    Do 3do please



  49. John L. Knowdy on March 7, 2020 at 2:28 pm

    For the government itself, it’s not a big deal. System crashing ? Just delay the deadline with 1 week. Done.



  50. New_Account on March 7, 2020 at 2:29 pm

    I love how they use the phrase "electronic computers"