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Tax sites feel deadline pressure

As Tuesday's tax-filing deadline looms online tax sites have experienced not only a surge in demand, but a rise in frustrating glitches.

This weekend when taxpayers rush to the Net to calm last-minute filing nightmares, they may find favorite sites, well, "overtaxed."

As Tuesday's tax-filing deadline looms online tax sites have experienced not only a surge in demand, but a rise in frustrating glitches.

Like most major accounting firms, the Internal Revenue Service has set up Web sites to guide taxpayers through the intricacies of filing and answer frequently asked questions.

Traffic on the IRS site has increased 280 percent from last year. The site answers more than a 100 tax questions, supplies copies of every tax filing form, and features a nationwide guide on "where to file." Users can't actually file through the site, and as of two weeks ago only 2,500 people at a time could download forms.

Some California taxpayers who trusted technology do their state filing also ran into trouble after using Intuit's TurboTax software. Intuit announced two weeks ago that those who reported income from more than one business had to re-figure their returns. The glitch also affected MacInTax.

"The California Franchise Tax Board recently informed us that some information we originally received from them may cause incorrect calculations in the 1996 California state programs," Intuit's Web site states.

More than 19,000 taxpayers have flooded the site to update the software, the company said today. But if Californians already filed their sate income taxes they may have to file amended returns.

Despite all the gridlock, however, there are some sites ready for business. Most major accounting firms have set up Web sites to answer questions, and some even have online filing services. For a fee, of course.

  • Pillsbury, Madison and Sutro , California's largest law firm, has created a site that offers links to many obscure tax codes, as well as a keyword search. Visitors can also download information about how to file for extensions.
  • The Tax Prophet "tax wizard" offers links to a variety of interactive tax sites, legal reference pages, and frequently asked questions.
  • The Quicken Financial Network has added the QFN Tax Center its site. For a fee, QFN will electronically file returns. This site also has easy to find answers on important filing dates, tax law changes, as well as information about tax laws for small businesses.
  • The nongovernmental 1040.com site also has state and federal tax forms and the latest tax-filing news from the IRS.
Reporter Courtney Macavinta contributed to this report