Just Before Tax Day, IRS Blows an Expensive, Important Deadline

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
April 14 2014 3:05 PM

Just Before Tax Day, IRS Blows an Expensive, Important Deadline

680080-man-walks-past-a-microsoft-billboard-featuring-its-latest
The IRS is way behind on upgrading its computer systems.

Photo by Kevin Lee/Getty Images

Taxes are due tomorrow, but the Internal Revenue Service is overdue on its Windows XP upgrades. Even though Microsoft ended support for XP last week, about 53 percent of the agency's 110,000 Windows-based computers are still running the outdated operating system. The other 52,000 computers were successfully upgraded to Windows 7 ahead of XP's retirement date.

Like government agencies in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands—plus other U.S. agencies—the IRS will have to pay Microsoft so its computers can continue receiving security patches until they can be upgraded. By some estimates, this will cost the IRS $11.6 million per year.

Advertisement

At an IRS budget hearing last week, Rep. Ander Crenshaw, chairman of the House Financial Services and General Government subcommittee, summed the situation up nicely. "Now we find out that you've been struggling to come up with $30 million to finish migrating to Windows 7, even though Microsoft announced in 2008 that it would stop supporting Windows XP past 2014. I know you probably wish you'd already done that."

John Koskinen, the IRS Commissioner, admitted that the agency knew about XP's end of support deadline for years and added that budget constraints have caused almost $300 million worth of unfinished IT projects within the agency. "So we are very concerned that if we don't complete that work, we're going to have an unstable environment in terms—in terms of security," he said.

In a statement to the Washington Post, the IRS said that none of its systems for processing tax returns or other critical filings were on computers running Windows XP. But in addition to concerns about vulnerabilities related to XP, the Government Accountability Office found in the last year that the IRS wasn't doing enough to monitor the security of its databases. According to the GAO's report, many of the weaknesses have to do with lack of updates, or partial implementation of security plans in different parts of the system. Not exactly a boon for citizen confidence.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Lily Hay Newman is lead blogger for Future Tense.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Photography
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
  Arts
Television
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 21 2014 11:38 PM “Welcome to the War of Tomorrow” How Futurama’s writers depicted asymmetrical warfare.
  Health & Science
The Good Word
Sept. 21 2014 11:44 PM Does This Name Make Me Sound High-Fat? Why it just seems so right to call a cracker “Cheez-It.”
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.