Over the past nine months, the Isaac Brock Society has built up an impressive collection of posts, many containing links to hard-to-find information buried in the nooks and crannies of the IRS website. Well, the IRS, in the process of their oh-so-helpful website redesign, just broke a bunch of those web page links. (Links to PDF forms and publications still seem to be okay, for now, though I wouldn’t be surprised if they broke those too later.) If you follow an old link, you’ll get the wonderfully-helpful message:
We have redesigned the IRS.gov website to make it easier and faster to find the information you need. If you have reached this page by selecting a bookmark that worked previously, it is likely the URL has changed. To navigate to the new redesigned IRS website click on the homepage link. You may also Search the site for specific information. Once you have arrived at the desired page, please update your bookmark.
What happened? Did they decide to disappear a bunch of inconvenient documents down the memory hole? Apparently not; they just moved it all around, which is almost as good: breaking thousands of links makes it harder and slower, not “easier and faster to find the information you need”. Even more strangely, some old links work — as if the IRS went through their website and picked a few random items to fix by hand, instead of bothering to figure out an automated solution to make sure all the old links remained working. Now those of us who have time and energy will have to go back and fix all of our old posts. Unfortunately there is no easy fix; you have to do it by hand. I give one example of how I did it below.
Apparently one unpaid volunteer is more competent than the entire IT staff of the IRS.
Oddly enough, not all links are broken. For example, in this old post by swisspinoy, the link with the false claim that “EVERYONE is eligible to free file!” still works, but the link informing U.S. Persons abroad about their ongoing tax filing obligations is broken. Think that the IRS breaking its website will be accepted as a “reasonable cause” argument for not knowing that you have to file one of their ridiculous forms? Dream on.
A concrete example of this problem and how to fix it by hand: my old post “Almost no U.S. Persons abroad properly report their foreign retirement accounts on Form 3520” linked to the following URL:
I didn’t remember what the title of that web page was, so I couldn’t just Google it up. And besides, at the moment Google has only indexed the old IRS URLs, not the new ones. For example, the top result in this search for “Germany US Tax Treaty” leads nowhere:
So I went to the Internet Archive to get an old copy of the page. From that I found out the title: “SOI Tax Stats: Foreign Trusts”. Since, like I mentioned above, Google still hasn’t fully digested the IRS’ redesign, you have to use the IRS website’s internal search function. That brought me to the new URL:
All over the internet, thousands of website maintainers are wasting their mornings or evenings doing this exact same thing just to get back to where they were before, all because the IRS cannot be bothered to follow extremely basic website design practises. Just another small example of how the IRS wastes other people’s time and money for absolutely no benefit whatsoever.