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The Boston Globe

Business

Mass. residents get extension on filing state tax returns

Massachusetts taxpayers received a three-day reprieve to file their state income taxes or ask for an extension after delays snagged the state’s free online filing system.

The state’s Department of Revenue announced on Tuesday that all residents — even those using the mail — had until midnight Friday to submit their personal income tax returns or file for an extension. Taxpayers have been complaining that the WebFile for Income site has been experiencing problems, taking hours, and in some cases making it impossible to file their returns. Some users said the problems had persisted since Sunday.

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The agency is “actively working to resolve this issue,” said spokeswoman Maryann Merigan.

State officials have blamed heavy volume over the past few days for the delays. Merigan, however, acknowledged that there is usually a last-minute surge of users before traditional April 15 filing deadline, which has not caused problems in the past.

“It’s possible it’s more than that,” Merigan said. “We’re looking into that.”

Andy Murphy, a West Newbury resident, said he tried a dozen times over a 24-hour period to file a personal income tax extension, but the site kept crashing. Murphy said he even tried at 3 a.m., under the assumption that few users would be online then, but it still didn’t work. That portion of the site, “is not slow — it’s broken,” he said. “This can’t just be a user-volume issue.”

Taxpayers feeling the deadline pressure also took to social media sites to vent. “Please close the website, consider it useless!!” one resident wrote on the department’s Facebook page.

“It says it’s loading, I’ve been waiting over an hour, what do you suggest?” another wrote on the page.

The delays have not affected returns filed electronically using private software packages, such as TurboTax or H&R Block. Those programs charge a fee to complete state filings, usually about $20.

The state’s site, WebFile for Income, is a free alternative.

Last year, 124,011 tax returns, or about 4 percent of the nearly 3 million electronically filed returns, came through WebFile.

The state has experienced other, unrelated website problems in recent months that have delayed health insurance coverage to thousands and unemployment benefits to jobless workers.

Last month, Massachusetts officials ditched the contractor responsible for building the state’s health insurance marketplace after it had failed to work properly since its launch in October.

The launch of the $46 million computer system designed to manage unemployment benefits also was marred by problems, which persisted for months as workers trying to file claims or collect benefits.

Deirdre Fernandes can be reached at deirdre.fernandes@ globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @fernandesglobe.

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