Commissioner of taxation Chris Jordan AO has given insight to the “unprecedented” and widespread failure of the ATO’s online systems this week, and issued an update on the status of pending refunds and treatment of late-lodging taxpayers.
Commissioner issues update on ATO’s massive system outage
Mr Jordan labelled this week's outages, which have meant significant downtime and deteriorated functioning for the Tax Agent Portal, BAS Portal and Business Portal, as the “worst unplanned system outage in recent memory”.
These services are back up and running, according to the commissioner, but he warned that professionals should expect intermittent performance issues in the next few days as the restoration and stabilisation process continues.
While some data currently accessible via the ATO’s online services, such as the Tax Agent Portal, is not up to date, Mr Jordan insisted that no data has been lost or compromised throughout this major system failure.
Mr Jordan confirmed that all refunds that were due to issue when the system went down on Monday have now been processed and will be paid today and tomorrow.
“Any other refunds in the system will be fast-tracked to ensure people get these payments as quickly as possible. We have devoted additional resources to ensure the vast majority of people get their refunds on time,” he said.
He stressed that taxpayers will not be disadvantaged as a result of the outage.
“This means if you needed to make a payment or lodge a form but couldn’t, you won’t be penalised,” he said.
The ATO is now set to launch an independent review into the events of this week and last. This will look to find the root cause of the issues, and also assess the adequacy of the ATO’s response and restoration process.
“This was an extremely unusual and unfortunate event, with the outage caused by a significant and unprecedented failure of storage hardware. The storage hardware was upgraded in November 2015 by Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) after a lengthy and thorough selection process, and was seen to be ‘state-of-the-art’ at the time,” said Mr Jordan.
“We understand the use of this storage hardware is not unique to the ATO and is basically the same used by other large clients of HPE in Australia and across the globe.
“What compounded the problem beyond the initial failure was the subsequent failure of our backup arrangements to work as planned. The failure of our backup arrangements meant that restoration and resumption of data and services has been very complex and time-consuming.”
The commissioner also defended the ATO’s technical capabilities, saying the issues experienced this week do not relate to its overall IT capability or skills.