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Human error knocks H&R Block offline

The company's Web site is brought down for two hours when technicians err during a routine maintenance of the site.

H&R Block's Web site was brought down for two hours when technicians erred during a routine maintenance of the site, the company said.

With less than two weeks to go before the April 17 deadline to file federal income tax returns, analysts are predicting a deluge of last-minute filers will test the online tax preparation firms for the first time.

Many consumers will form lasting impressions on Web tax preparation. For that reason, companies such as H&R Block and Intuit can ill-afford to greet new customers with broken down sites or crashes such as yesterday's at H&R Block, analysts have said.

About 4 p.m. PST, many visitors to Hrblock.com were logged off involuntarily as they tried to complete their income taxes, said Hrblock.com representative Kim Coutts. Others were unable to access the site at all and were greeted by a message informing them that the site was "experiencing difficulties serving everyone."

The site was back online by 6 p.m., Coutts said.

Already this tax season, Hrblock.com was shut down for several days after a system glitch allowed some users to see other customers' personal tax information. Prior to that, heavy traffic caused intermittent outages to the site.

Last tax season, Intuit's Web site, Turbotax, suffered an outage for a day.