Accountants have been warned that data on the Tax Agent Portal may not be up to date, as the ATO extends key monthly lodgement deadlines for tax agents amid the significant digital service outages.
ATO extends deadlines with major work on portal needed
As reported yesterday, the ATO is experiencing significant issues with its online systems, resulting in major outages spanning from its official website to the Tax Agent Portal, BAS Portal and Business Portal.
Yesterday morning, the ATO said the Tax Agent Portal, BAS Portal and Business Portal were back online. However, several tax agents contacted Accountants Daily saying this was not the case.
In particular, “partial system outages” and “degraded performance” messages were encountered throughout the day on services such as activity statements, on-demand reports, pre-fill data, client accounts and mail messaging.
The client communication list service on the portal experienced a “major outage”.
The ATO told tax professionals it still has a “significant” amount of work to do to stabilise its systems.
“As we perform this work, you may experience intermittent issues using the portals over the next few days. You can help by restricting your use of the portals to essential work only. If you have trouble accessing the portal, try again later,” the ATO said.
Importantly, information that is displayed on the portal may not be current, since the ATO is still in the process of restoring data.
“Please be assured that no data has been lost and that up-to-date information will be displayed as we complete the data restoration,” the ATO said.
The ATO noted that those using the electronic lodgement service (ELS) can still make lodgements, although processing will be delayed. The Waymouth (Adelaide) gateway is not available but tax agents can lodge through the Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane gateways.
Importantly, with respect to the November monthly activity statement due next week, the ATO will provide a deferral for lodgement and payment.
“More information will be available in a later alert. Please do not lodge a deferral request,” the ATO said.
Accountants Australia-wide have experienced significant productivity and time losses as a result of these outages.
Gail Freeman, director at Gail Freeman and Co, told Accountants Daily the outages have meant she has work that simply can’t be completed.
Ms Freeman, who said the Tax Agent Portal is “amazing” when it’s up and running, said losing access to the portal means that, importantly, it’s difficult for her to verify data when completing work for clients.
“At the moment we are working in a vacuum,” she said.
Like many accountants, Ms Freeman would prefer to have a clear indication of the downtime from the ATO, rather than promises that a solution is in sight.
“Then at least I can work around it and plan. Accountants tend to want to get things done sequentially; it would help if I could organise around the downtime,” she said.
Small firms, in particular, are suffering with the lack of access to pre-filled information.
“We are only a small firm but we rely heavily on the information we can normally access on the portal,” Julie Stapleton of Stapleton Accounting told Accountants Daily.
“We are unable to finalise some tax returns because we don’t have access to the pre-filling reports to check some information,” she said.
“Also, we have just recently changed over to the PLS lodgement system so we can’t lodge a lot of recent tax returns.”