COLUMBIA -- Joe Wischerath is obliged to pay his taxes on time and he thinks state government ought to be obliged to provide the means to do so.

For the past four years, Wischerath, who runs the speciality retail shop Zinnia in Mount Pleasant, has paid his sales and withholding taxes to the state Department of Revenue online each month. But for the past two weekends, the site to process the online tax payments has been down for maintenance.

Adrienne Fairwell, public information director for the Revenue Department, said Monday that the agency has to take its website offline about once a quarter for scheduled maintenance.

The regular maintenance is a necessity because it makes sure that the electronic payment system works without any hiccups, conforms with the latest laws and provides adequate safety standards for the users, she said.

The site was down beginning at 4 p.m. Friday. Fairwell called back later Monday to say that by about 2 p.m. the Revenue Department's website was up and running again.

The site was offline May 7, 8 and 9 as well.

Wischerath said when he went to pay his taxes May 8, a Saturday, a notification on the site said its electronic tax payment system was working. About three hours later, Wischerath still couldn't get the site to process his payment. Just before he took off for a four-day business trip on May 10, a Monday, he checked back online and he was able to pay his taxes in between maintenance check-ups.

"My problem was they said it was still up and it wasn't," Wischerath said.

Wischerath said he's got an idea for the government agency: Why not e-mail the people who are registered to use the Revenue Department's electronic payment system whenever the site goes down for maintenance?

Fairwell said she thought Wischerath's suggestion is a "great idea," although she has some concerns about how e-mailing the users to forewarn them of site maintenance might conflict with the agency's confidentiality standards.

For now, she said, taxpayers are notified in "bold, red letters" about seven to 10 days in advance of the scheduled maintenance.

Reach Yvonne Wenger at 803-926-7855 or ywenger@postandcourier.com.