State's site for paying taxes picks wrong time to fail

Updated (3): Webfile for Business/Income on the blink as Massachusetts filing deadline nears

Talk about bad timing: A special Web site operated by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue to collect taxes from businesses, individuals and families has been down since sometime this weekend - and remains down at this moment - with a deadline for quarterly payments looming tomorrow.

And there is apparently no other way for taxpayers to square their tabs.

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Billed as Webfile for Business and Webfile for Income, the site currently carries this message: "DOR's WebFile for Business and WebFile for Income applications are currently unavailable. DOR is working to resolve these technical issues and anticipates system availability by late afternoon on Tuesday, June 14, 2011. We apologize for the inconvenience and will update this site as more information becomes available."

A Department of Revenue spokesman says the problem is related to "a patch that was installed over the weekend." He was not privy to technical details, but is trying to get some for me.

The outage was brought to my attention by Paul Desmond, a friend and former Network World colleague who is now principal with PDEdit, purveyors of white papers, case studies and other forms of custom content for the IT industry. 

"I noticed it yesterday morning sometime," Desmond says in an e-mail. "First I got an error message that just said 'unable to connect' and 'try again later' or some such.  Then later they claimed it was 'planned system maintenance,' which just seemed absurd.  I couldn't believe it was still down this morning."

"I just talked to a guy at DOR and asked whether there were other options for filing the payment and he said, 'not really.'  But he says so long as you file by midnight tomorrow there's no penalty.  So I guess they have some time."

Not much, though.

(Update: So much for late Tuesday afternoon, as it's now 8:30 p.m. and there's no sign of life at Webfile for Business or Webfile for Income. As for the additional information from that Department of Revenue spokesman, there is no sign of that either.)

(Update, June 15: The DoR services are back up this morning, deadline day. No word as to whether extensions will be offered for anyone who had trouble filing.)

(Later update: Now there's word on a deadline extension.)

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