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Sites taxed by April 16 deadline

Tax sites are getting bogged down by taxpayers racing to beat the deadline to file federal income tax returns, Net tracking company Keynote Systems says.

Tax sites are getting bogged down by taxpayers racing to beat the deadline to file federal income tax returns, Net traffic-tracking company Keynote Systems said Thursday.

By mid February, tax preparation sites such as Quicken.com, Hrblock.com and 1040.com began to show signs of strain, said Keynote, which measures how long it takes to log on to a Web site, among other barometers.

For instance, visitors to Quicken.com, operated by business software maker Intuit, accessed the site with ease up until Feb. 19, when "the success rate degraded," Keynote said. "Site availability has been compromised ever since." Quicken, however, had a better overall monthly average than TaxCut.com and Hrblock.com.

TaxCut.com was the slowest site overall for February, taking visitors 4.4 seconds to log on, while Hrblock.com. took 3.71 seconds.

Americans have steadily begun trusting their income tax preparation and filings to the Internet. This year, the Internal Revenue Service expects 42 million taxpayers to file electronically, up from 36 million last year. To snag a share of the growing business, tax preparation sites are trying to keep sites easy to use and running smoothly.

However, their record is something less than that. A week ago, Intuit's tax site went offline for about 24 hours. Others have struggled in the past with site outages and stalls, including Hrblock.com, the Net unit of tax stalwart H&R Block.