On Friday morning, the ATO’s online systems were either unavailable or experiencing slowness. In particular, the online services for agents and portals experienced a major outage, with services fully restored by Saturday morning.
The government’s myGov system also went down, affecting Australians looking to access government services, including Medicare, Centrelink and the ATO.
An ATO spokesperson told Accountants Daily that the outage was unrelated to Thursday’s Telstra outages and was not a result of a surge in users this tax time.
The outage comes as more than 4 million taxpayers were anticipated to sign up for a myGov account to view their income statement, formerly known as a payment summary.
Income statements can only be accessed through myGov or through a tax agent and have come about due to the introduction of Single Touch Payroll.
The ATO said it was working to restore services as quickly as possible but could not provide an expected time frame.
“It will not have any impact on people who have already lodged their returns. We have already processed over 1 million returns and 390,000 refunds with a value of $882 million have already been paid into accounts this morning,” an ATO spokesperson said.
“A further 110,000 refunds worth $292 million will be paid into accounts this afternoon. Today, a total of 500,000 refunds worth $1.2 billion will be paid into peoples’ bank accounts.”
Economic and non-economic loss
This is the second time in as many months that the ATO’s systems have experienced a major outage, with the Institute of Public Accountants general manager of technical policy Tony Greco highlighting the serious consequences of such downtime on public practitioners.
“We’re focused on the productivity losses that smaller practices have experienced today, and this has been an ongoing issue,” Mr Greco told Accountants Daily.
“I know of practices who effectively can’t do much work today, and that’s a real productivity issue alongside reputational damage in not being able to hold on to appointments today to give that service to their clients.”
Mr Greco said the outages in “peak tax time” have reinforced the need to revisit the Compensation for Defective and Detrimental Administration (CDDA) scheme, which is currently undergoing a review.
“It is only another matter of time before systems go down again and there should be some blanket relief provided,” Mr Greco said.
“How are they going to compensate for economic and non-economic losses that practitioners incur? We are the ones doing the heavy lifting for the tax system.
“This will steal family time from small practitioners this weekend trying to get back on top of their backlog.
“These kinds of things can’t keep going forever and a day; we’re talking mental health issues as well.”