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‘No guarantees’: Commissioner urges agents to temper expectations for ATO systems


Tax practitioners have been asked to accept that the ATO’s systems will never be perfect, as the government hands over $151 million to the agency to improve its system resilience.

By Jotham Lian 12 minute read

Speaking on the CA Catalyst podcast, Commissioner of Taxation Chris Jordan said that he could not guarantee that the ATO’s systems would be perfect in the future, despite the establishment of its Improving ATO IT Systems (IAIS) Program.

“We’ve also got to realise that we have a huge system with a lot of moving parts and an enormous amount of data coming through the systems now than ever before, not only with Single Touch Payroll information but with all the data exchanges, the country by country reporting, the common reporting system — an enormous amount of information now coming in from other jurisdictions now hitting our systems,” Mr Jordan said.

“Not all our systems are as new as we would like them to be, so it’s not like it’s just one big computer where you upgrade it — there is a huge number of parts to that.


“We’re going through a very detailed process of prioritising what we need to renew to provide better resilience to our overall system and this is an incredibly difficult and expensive project.”

He added: “If I said to government, why don’t you give us $500 million a year for the next four years, we’ll have a great system for tax agents, we would have a much better, a much more resilient system.

“But the government has priorities and they’re not going to give us $500 million a year for the next four years for us to build the whiz-bang system to service agents, so we have to deal within our own funding envelope; we have to make priorities in those decisions. We recognise agents are a hugely important partnership for us to make the system work, but no system is going to be perfect.”

Instead, the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) has revealed that the government will provide $150.8 million over three years from 2019–20 to the Australian Taxation Office to improve its data storage and resilience of its security system.

Mr Jordan said practitioners should adopt a realistic approach when it came to dealing with the ATO’s “enormous system”.

“We do get some stones thrown at us when something doesn’t work or a date was wrong on a letter, but you know what, that’s going to happen, there will always be little things that go wrong, so I just ask agents to sometimes think of the much bigger picture and think of the volume and stress and the moving parts we have in this enormous system,” Mr Jordan said.

“So, if one of two things don’t look right to you, well, I’m sorry, but I can’t guarantee that there won’t be things like that in the future.”

Mr Jordan had previously acknowledged the possibility of further disruptions over the next few months as the ATO rolls out a number of new technological changes, assuring tax professionals that the agency does not “underestimate the impact” it will have on their businesses and clients.

Jotham Lian

Jotham Lian


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.

You can email Jotham at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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