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Washington D. C.'s Office of Tax and Revenue (OTR) sent out letters to some 3,000 residents last week telling them that they had underpaid their taxes, and that the taxes were due 20 June - along with penalties and interest. The only problem was that the letters were wrong.

According to the Washington Post, a software error in a third-party program used by both the District's tax collectors and taxpayers online apparently only credited the affected taxpayers with 10% of the District taxes that were actually withheld.

Making matters worse, the District's tax customer service call center which taxpayers were directed to call was down due to another computer error soon after the incorrect bills were sent out, adding to the anger and frustration of those receiving the letters.

Of course, some other District residents who received similar letters may really owe taxes, but given the glitch, they may think that they too received incorrect tax bills.

As the Post pointed out in its story, the DC OTR has had a myriad of problems with its computers, including a major tax scam a couple of years ago.

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Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar

You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

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