Internal Revenue Service officials warned yesterday that taxpayers may encounter annoying computer flaws this year and next because of the Year 2000 technology problem.
Speaking before the House Ways and Means Committee, administration officials, along with IRS and other government officials, described the impact on taxpayers and beneficiaries.
The most startling warning came from commissioner Charles Rossotti, who explained that even though the IRS is confident there will be no systemwide meltdown, there may be some localized problems, according to his prepared testimony.
The commissioner said that his department has made major strides in fighting the Y2K computer bug, and that the overall picture is "generally positive." Nevertheless, he added, "there is still a great deal of risk and some trouble spots," and that the next 90 days "represent the riskiest period."
Overall, approximately 40 million lines of code must be made compliant within the 126 application systems and seven telecommunications systems, he said. As of January 31, 1999, the agency completed 92 percent of its code compliance work. More specifically, 114 of the 124 mission critical application systems have been made compliant.
The IRS commissioner also said the agency has already set up contingency plans to detect and respond to any problems that occur.
The Year 2000 problem, also known as the millennium bug, stems from an old programming shortcut that used only the last two digits of the year.
Many computers now must be modified or they may mistake the year 2000 for the year 1900--and may not be able to function at all, causing widespread disruptions in services in the transportation, financial, utility, and public safety sectors, observers warn.
At yesterday's hearing, other government officials supported Rossotti's claims that there won't be nationwide system failures in industries, just local inconveniences.