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High-profile intervention for BAS, tax agent portal saga


The shadow treasurer has called on the Prime Minister to address the persistent degraded performance and downtime issues which plague the ATO’s portals, which particularly affect BAS agents who are working outside of business hours. 

By Katarina Taurian 10 minute read

This week, more unplanned disruptions were experienced for those lodging tax returns in the practitioner lodgement service (PLS) and Standard Business Reporting (SBR2).

This follows another rocky start to tax time for the tax agent, business and BAS agent portals, with some unscheduled downtime for several hours.

These are the latest in a string of issues that have plagued the portals since inception.

Shadow treasurer Andrew Leigh has since called on Mr Turnbull to give a realistic indication to the accounting community about the stability of the ATO’s digital systems this tax time.

“The Turnbull government needs to explain to individuals and tax agents exactly what impact this will have on their ability to lodge tax returns for the rest of this tax season,” the statement said.

“We have also repeatedly called for an investigation into these outages, something else the government has ignored.

“Malcolm Turnbull needs to tell Australians how many outages there have been and for how long. Taxpayers deserve to know what the Turnbull government is doing — if anything — to fix this problem.”

Minister for Revenue and Financial Services Kelly O’Dwyer’s office was approached, but no comment was offered.

Real impact

Workflow is undoubtedly affected when the portals are down, Mel Power, founder at The Revolutionary Firm, told The Bookkeeper.

"From a BAS agent point of view, not being able to check Integrated Client Accounts and also any outstanding lodgements does slow things down. I see many BAS agents frustrated with this, and a lot of outages do happen on weekends, which is often the time when we use the quiet time to get things done,” she said.

Although not ideal, there are solutions that can be put in place to work around the disruptions — which requires technology that is capable of filling in the blanks.

“The work around is to simply put jobs aside that fall into the category of having to access the portal for the futher info, and using software to queue for lodgement, structure your practice to bulk lodge things, and move on to other work as quickly as possible,” Ms Power said.

“It isn't the end of the world, but does slow things down for BAS agents when this happens, being able to pivot quickly and move our teams on to other things is the key to remaining effective," she said.

Communication is key to ensuring your clients' aren't adversely impacted, according to the team at All That Counts, including Lielette Calleja and Claire Bertucen. Assuming that portal crashes will be a regular part of day-to-day work is also central to ensuring deadlines are appropriately set.  

"We work and live in a digital world which means having systems go down is an inevitable part of doing business. Forward planning and organisation is the key. Accountants and bookkeepers need to factor contingency plans as part of their workflow when this happens. ATO portal and all online accounting programs are susceptible to disruption. It’s the business we work in. Not having access to a client's integrated client account on the portal is the only real frustration we encounter as this can put a delay in our workflow at year end," they said. 

"Allowing additional time to address any unforeseen issues that may arise will ensure client inconvenience is minimised and staff productivity unaffected in the event of online disruption.

"For us that means we have a standard template that is emailed to our clients advising them of ATO downtimes and when the portal is back up and running. Communication is key as we are the conduit between the ATO and our clients." 


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Katarina Taurian


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