illustration of people sending access to the internet

Dear IRS,

We imagine that Tax Day during the best of times is extremely hectic, so we can’t even imagine what your past 24 hours has been like. First off, we wanted to send you some massive #HugOps from all of us at Statuspage – we know how stressful unplanned downtime can be. Our bread and butter is status and incident communication – basically helping our customers keep their customers out of the dark during downtime. In your case, you had to quickly keep all of America in the loop during the 11th hour of tax filing (yikes!).

You did get a status update up on your site,  but it was a bit…erroneous. While we know better than anyone that downtime is inevitable, 7,981 years and 258 days is a record!

All joking aside, what your users really needed to know was:

  • a) What you knew about the outage so far
  • b) When users could expect more details
  • c) What they should do in the meantime

It’s ok to not have all the answers right away. Being radically transparent about what you do know, and what you are doing to answer the unknowns and fix the issue is what really matters.

We took a stab at rewriting it using some best practices for writing status updates:

IRS Direct Pay System Outage

Investigating – We are investigating a system-wide outage that took our online Direct Pay system down. At this time we are unsure how long it will last. We are looking into ways to mitigate the issue and will make sure that there is an extension put in place for those who were planning to file online today. Watch this page for more information. Next update in 30 minutes. 

We want to offer you free Statuspage for a year (up until Tax Day 2019)! While we hope you’ll never need it for an outage of the same scale, we want you to feel prepared going forward, and want taxpayers to feel confident in you. The key to maintaining their trust going forward is transparent communications early and often during downtime. After all, in this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except downtime and taxes. That’s the saying, right? 😉 Here’s to a much calmer week ahead.


The Statuspage Team

P.S. If you want a great example of a government organization nailing incident communication, take a look at the Australian Taxation Office’s status page.

Downtime and taxes: an open letter to the IRS