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Lessons from Tax Day 2015: How the tax sites fared

David Jones, Field Technical Evangelist, Dynatrace | May 6, 2015
This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

Every April millions upon millions of taxpayers rush to file state and federal taxes before the 15th, and as with every other aspect of day-to-day life, filing taxes has become digital. The IRS website alone receives three to four times as much traffic in early spring as it does in the off-season, and this gigantic spike is indicative of what most tax-related websites experience at this time of year.

With this in mind, Dynatrace put its expertise in digital performance monitoring into action surrounding tax day 2015. We wanted to see what could be gleaned from the performance of applications and sites that prepare for this peak event all year long. We monitored recognized tax prep vendors and related sites leading up to the April 15th deadline to see who held up best under the strain of increased traffic and transactions to provide the best digital experience for end-users.

The graph below sums up the results, indicating that small, up-and-coming sites like expresstaxrefund.com, olt.com and jacksonhewitt.com outperformed better-known sites. H&R Block and TurboTax, while providing consistent availability, were sluggish by comparison to the newer up-and-comers.

Efficient processing of requests and high-performance — even under peak demand — is crucial to keeping customers loyal and satisfied. Financial services is an extremely competitive arena online. So, while SEO dominance is important, performance plays a critical role when consumers are really deciding whether a company's walk lives up to their talk around customer service and digital performance.

Performance is also important from a brand equity and loyalty vantage point. Only the vendors who provided a rock solid user experience will see their users return next April. Studies indicate that users will only wait about three seconds for a site to load before switching to another option. Companies that made their users wait this season will see them using a different service in 2016.

Tax vendors weren't the only players with a stake in the game. Dynatrace also monitored the websites of 10 large State Revenue Departments to check on their performance, as these sites also experience a major traffic spike in early April as residents log on in search of filing rules and instructions. In this performance challenge, North Carolina and Illinois ended up with the best performance while Florida and Pennsylvania wound up on the bottom of the heap.

Since State Revenue Departments are not profit-focused organizations, many may think performance is less of an issue as they do not have the same financial stake in the game. However, the reality is that a slow state tax site harms the state government's reputation. And, while states aren't concerned about losing business to other tax vendors, their fear is that taxpayers could abandon the digital experience altogether. Taxpayers who can't find or access the information they need online will tie up phone lines and call centers, and create longer long lines at physical offices. This is not only frustrating and more time-consuming for taxpayers, but it also costs the state more money to process filings. Serving citizens with a great digital experience online is much less time and resource intensive.

 

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