Oversight chairman: IRS outage 'may be a hack'

A top House lawmaker on Thursday suggested hackers had caused the Internal Revenue Service’s hardware failure.

Late Wednesday night, a number of the IRS’s tax processing systems went down because of technical problems, the agency said.

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“My initial gut reaction is that may be a hack,” said House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzOvernight Energy: Obama signs chemical safety reform into law House caucus to focus on business in Latin America Freedom Caucus urges vote on impeaching IRS commissioner MORE (R-Utah) on Fox Business Network's “Mornings With Maria.”

“You just don’t have systems collapse and people can’t use the systems online,” he added. “It’s not like they run out of batteries or something. It really does smell like a hack.”

The hardware failure rendered several services available, including the IRS's modernized e-filing system, several taxpayer and practitioner tools and portions of the IRS website.

The agency maintained the outages would not hurt taxpayers.

“Taxpayers can continue to prepare and file their tax returns as they normally would,” the agency said in a statement. “Taxpayers can continue to send their tax returns to their e-file provider; these companies will hold the tax returns until the IRS resumes accepting electronic tax returns.”

But Chaffetz jumped on the incident to reiterate his call for the firing of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

“I have zero confidence, zero, in IRS Commissioner John Koskinen,” he said.

The IRS has struggled to combat digital intruders over the past year. In August, the agency revealed that hackers had been able to swipe sensitive information about more than 300,000 taxpayers.

The cyber thieves broke in through the IRS system that allows taxpayers to request transcripts of their returns and other sensitive information. The agency shut down the system in May, after the breach was first discovered.