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Fight against ‘dinosaur’ ATO heats up


One accounting body is looking to back plans for the ATO’s digital outages fight to be taken to the Senate estimates process, saying the “suck it up” attitude for tax professionals is wearing thin, while another is calling on the government to revisit compensation options.

By Katarina Taurian 10 minute read

The Institute of Public Accountants is backing South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon’s plans to take the ATO’s ongoing digital downtime issues through the Senate estimates process.

“We are more than happy to support Xenophon in his moves,” the IPA’s senior tax adviser, Tony Greco, told Accountants Daily.

“We are supportive of anyone who realises the pain that has been inflicted on the tax profession,” he said, adding that chief executive Andrew Conway will likely engage with the senator over the issue.

The IPA recently acknowledged the ATO’s efforts to ensure the stability of the ATO’s systems for tax time, but noted that members have “borne the brunt” of the technology failures over a protracted period.

“It’s reached a point where the profession doesn’t even want anything sophisticated anymore, just something with robust functionality 24/7 would keep people more than happy,” said Mr Greco.

“We don’t have an alternative - it’s the ATO. If you’ve got an internet provider that’s not delivering, you can just change, but we can’t do that with the ATO. It’s monopolistic. You can’t go anywhere else, and you’re stuck.

“All we want is reliable, robust systems that don’t deliver hiccups, because we have had a bad history that has cost our industry and profession a lot in opportunities.”

Compensation calls

Mr Xenophon has flagged plans to raise the idea of a statutory compensation scheme for those affected by the ATO’s outages.

“We need to look at the tax office compensating accountants for the inconvenience. The tax office should be subject to service standards,” Mr Xenophon said.

“Having a statutory compensation scheme for these outages would be a powerful incentive for systems to work and not crash like this,” he said.

CPA Australia said, against a backdrop of ongoing instability, it’s time for the government to revisit compensation options for tax professionals.

“A system that provides adequate compensation is likely to also provide the government with benefits from the earlier uptake of technology such as single touch payroll and the practitioner lodgement system by businesses,” a spokesperson for the association told Accountants Daily.

“The stability and reliability of the ATO portal remains a major challenge for our public practice members.

“They are being encouraged to embrace more technology that interacts with the ATO's systems, but that makes them more vulnerable when issues arise on the ATO’s side.”

Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand acknowledged the impact of the ongoing instability on its members also.

“We continue to work with the ATO as part of the professional association forum to identify key areas for them to address, including improvements to stakeholder communications and the automatic remission of tax penalties attributable to systems failure,” a spokesperson told Accountants Daily.

“We also continue to advocate for the introduction of a public ATO service standard for all users of tax online services.”


Katarina Taurian


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