The Individual Master File (IMF) is the system used by the IRS to store and process tax returns. According to the Government Accountability Office, the IMF, developed over 60 years ago, is the oldest computer system in the entire federal government. Written in Assembly and COBOL programming languages, the system contains data about 1 billion taxpayers. Given its central role in revenue collection for the United States, upgrading the IMF has been a priority for decades.
Unfortunately, modernizing the IMF has proven to be difficult. After many failed efforts, the IRS set out to build the Customer Account Data Engine (CADE) in the year 2000 to replace the IMF. CADE was only moderately successful in replacing lesser IMF capabilities, such as processing the simple 1040EZ tax returns. The IRS decided in 2009 to abandon CADE and a year later develop a new system called CADE 2 using existing investments from the failed CADE system. As each year passed, more pressure was placed on the IRS to modernize a system that was initially developed during the Kennedy administration. With the likelihood of a catastrophe happening to the antiquated IMF system increasing each year, the IRS needed to make progress with CADE 2.