The Independent Review of the Compensation for Detriment Caused by Defective Administration (CDDA scheme) was recently completed, with the report’s 12 recommendations failing to address issues surrounding the ATO’s IT outages and system failures.
However, in an address to the IPA National Congress 2019, Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar said he would have direct oversight of the CDDA scheme and assured tax practitioners that it would drive the cultural change he was pushing for at the ATO.
“My view is that the ATO, in trying to ensure that the culture of the organisation from top to bottom, reflects the things that I am talking about today, [is] subject to a mechanism like a compensation claim that will be handled independently, handled objectively, where there is oversight from the minister — that will be a huge driver for behaviour from within the organisation,” Mr Sukkar said.
“Thus far, we’ve had a CDDA scheme that has been virtually inaccessible to any taxpayer and this is going to change and I think this is underestimated; this will be a driver of behavioural change within the ATO in a way that perhaps even I can’t fully explain now.”
The IPA’s general manager of technical policy, Tony Greco, said he was buoyed by Mr Sukkar’s comments and would now speak to him directly to explain the plight of the profession when the ATO’s systems go down.
“What we asked for was not part of the final recommendation, but we are very encouraged by the minister’s comments that potentially open the door to consider some of these issues,” Mr Greco said.
“Clients of our members get relief, lodgement deadlines deferred, penalty waivers when [the ATO’s] systems go down, but our members suffer economic and non-economic losses, productivity falls off a cliff, billable hours suffer, work builds up, mental stress, and you’ve got reputational damage with clients.
“Effectively, there is no plan B once the system goes down.”
Mr Greco believes accountants deserve compensation when ATO IT systems go down in the same way the ATO received an undisclosed compensation settlement from Hewlett Packard Enterprise for its major 2016 and 2017 outages.
“The major outages in 2016 and 2017, the ATO got compensation. It sought and got awarded a settlement payment and what did it do with the money? They didn’t share it with the community that was most affected, but they argued the same thing — reputational damage,” Mr Greco said.
“If there’s not a precedent in that then knock me out.”
Jotham Lian is the editor of Accountants Daily, the leading source of breaking news, analysis and insight for Australian accounting professionals.
Before joining the team in 2017, Jotham wrote for a range of national mastheads including the Sydney Morning Herald, and Channel NewsAsia.