The ATO’s legal database has been experiencing technical difficulties in recent months, with issues such as unavailable pages and loading errors being raised on the ATO Community forum as early as June this year.
The database is a crucial resource for practitioners as it contains rulings, compliance guidelines and determinations.
An ATO spokesperson said that multiple changes have since been implemented, with a team continuing to work on improving the speed of the system.
“We apologise that some practitioners are experiencing slowness with the legal database,” an ATO spokesperson told Accountants Daily.
“We are working with our technology partners to fix the performance issues with the legal database.
“We have recently implemented some changes which are already showing improvements to service levels and have identified further technology changes that we will introduce shortly to further improve service.”
While the ATO had assured the Tax Practitioners Stewardship Group that a fix was on the way, CPA Australia tax policy adviser Elinor Kasapidis said the changes were taking significantly longer than the profession had expected.
“The ATO legal database is a critical resource for practitioners and needs to be fully functional at all times,” Ms Kasapidis said.
Likewise, Tony Greco from the Institute of Public Accountants said it was incumbent on the ATO to provide practitioners and their clients with appropriate guidance.
“The legal database is a critical resource in providing advice to clients and it is negligent on professionals not to use this information if there is no other guidance available,” Mr Greco said.
“As practitioners, we have to exercise reasonable care in the performance of our duties and not having reliable access to this resource could result in adverse outcomes. It’s the go-to resource that can assist practitioners with guidance on specific issues.”
Mr Greco also believes practitioners seeking redress through the Compensation for Detriment Caused by Defective Administration (CDDA Scheme) would find it a bridge too far after an independent review failed to address compensation for agents for ATO digital system failures.
“The CDDA Scheme is very deficient when it comes to practitioners seeking relief. You have to prove maladministration which is a high threshold,” he said.
“The ATO has in the past successfully argued that system issues are not defective administration, so no joy here.”
The ATO has now urged practitioners who are still experiencing issues with its database to contact the Tax Office through the tax agent hotline or email for tailored assistance.
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.