R. Fink | An unlikely hero on tax day

The Packet Rat

The Packet Rat

Michael J. Bechetti

Tax Day always brings a little grinding of the incisors at the Rat household.

Although the whiskered one's finances are as straightforward as a Microsoft Windows patch ' regularly scheduled, with the occasional surprise ' his spouse's entrepreneurial activities always manage to complicate the mix enough to make early filing nigh impossible.

No matter ' the Rat is self-reliant beyond the boundaries of reason; we're talking about the rodent who attempted to build his own biofuel refinery in the burrow's backyard before the neighbors complained to the Environmental Protection Agency.

'I'll let an accountant file my taxes when they pry the forms from my cold, dead paws,' he told his wife as he reviewed her Schedule C for the 95th time.

So needless to say, in the final weeks leading up to the filing deadline, the Rat was not taking those ads Intuit ran for its TurboTax software well. The ads, which tried to play on the tension and fear in the hearts of all tax procrastinators, were like nails on a chalkboard for the cyber-rodent. 'And they think that makes me want to use their software? Someone at Intuit must be on something.'

And for once in his life, the Rat's disdain actually worked for him. As he shipped his taxes out the night before the deadline via an e-Filing, Intuit was about to do the improbable ' make the IRS look, to the hordes of last-minute filers using TurboTax's e-File, like the hero on the white horse. And on April 19, that's no mean feat.

On Tax Day, the Rat wandered into the office early, his return complete and accepted electronically, to find that there was an inordinate number of empty desks in the command bunker. 'Great, the Tax Flu,' he sighed, as he booted up and started handling trouble tickets.

Meanwhile, a certain segment of his workforce was spending the morning ranting on Web sites about Intuit's little problem ' the volume of e-filings had overwhelmed its servers. To make matters worse, an Intuit spokesman, Harry Pforzheimer, blamed the users themselves. He told the Associated Press: 'Don't wait until the last minute is the moral of the story.'

There is nothing more dangerous than a tax procrastinator scorned. On a thousand blogs, mobs were forming with virtual torches and pitchforks, calling for the head of Harry Pforzheimer. H&R Block, which makes a competitor to TurboTax called TaxCut, was doing its best to rub salt in the wounds, offering customers who installed TaxCut at the last minute a guarantee against late-filing penalties of as much as $100 if their returns didn't go through in time.

And then, suddenly, over the crest of impending financial doom, the IRS cavalry rode in and extended the deadline for TurboTax users by 48 hours. The crisis averted, some put their torches away and decided that maybe it would be good to go to work after all.

But the Rat, never one to let pass an opportunity to cackle at another's expense, did not withhold comment. Every late arrival on April 20 found a custom-made T-shirt on their desk with the words 'I got Turboed' across the back.

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@postnewsweektech.com.

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