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ATO major system outages strike again

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ATO major system outages strike again

Shades of the ATO’s 2017 annus horribilis have returned following a major system outage that has affected its online portals a day before an entities and individuals lodgement due date.

Technology Jotham Lian 04 June 2019
— 2 minute read

The ATO’s online systems experienced an unplanned outage on Tuesday morning, with its tax professionals portals, online service for agents, PLS service and superannuation services all going down.

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While the Tax Office has vowed to restore the services, it has conceded that services are unlikely to be returned by 4 June.

It has also reassured practitioners that they will not need to seek deferrals for the late lodgement or payment on 5 June as a result of the outage.

5 June is a due date to lodge a tax return for all entities with a lodgement due date of 15 May 2019 if the tax return is not required earlier and if it meets the criteria of a non-taxable or a credit assessment in latest year lodged and is non-taxable or receiving a credit assessment in the current year.

The date also coincides with a concessional arrangement where failure to lodge on time (FTL) penalties will not apply if tax returns due for individuals and trusts with a lodgement due date of 15 May 2019 are lodged and liabilities paid by 5 June.

“Work on our systems continues, but we don’t expect our services to be back online today. You won’t be disadvantaged for late lodgement or payment and you don’t need to seek a deferral if you’re unable to meet the 5 June due date,” said the ATO in an online update.

“We apologise for the inconvenience to users currently unable to access those services. We are working to resolve these issues and will provide updates as they are available through our social media channels and dashboards.”

The latest downtime comes after the ATO experienced prolonged system outages in late 2016 and early 2017 that left tax professionals without service access for lengthy periods, with the House Standing Committee on Tax and Revenue dubbing it as an “annus horribilis”.

Among its 37 recommendations, the committee called for the ATO to provide a clear explanation of its methodology for measurement of digital availability and report the information in a clear tabular format showing actual periods of downtime (separately, outages and maintenance-in-hours) versus availability for key services.

The committee further recommended that the ATO review and report on its measurement thresholds for priority incidents to improve accountability to stakeholders and to the government.

PwC’s independent review into the ATO’s outages found a “residual risk” of further downtime because the exact cause, or combination of causes, for the failures could not be determined. 

Update: The ATO has since restored all online services as of Wednesday morning. Agents will not need to seek deferrals if they are unable to meet the 5 June finalisation date for income tax lodgement as a result of yesterday’s disruption. The Tax Office will provide further advice on the extent of deferrals soon.

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ATO major system outages strike again
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