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ATO Seeks To Reassure Taxpayers Over Online Systems

by Mary Swire,, Hong Kong
Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has explained the causes for recent problems with its online systems, and stressed that it is trying to minimize the risk of such incidents occurring again.

In early July, the ATO experienced problems with its mainframe. At the time, it said this was caused by applications running incorrectly. It had to reboot the mainframe and gradually bring its services back online.

In a statement issued on July 12, the ATO said that "recent events have not been related to our storage area network (SAN), but have been caused by other hardware or mainframe issues, and sometimes simply human error."

The latest outages follow major system failures in December 2016 and February 2017. According to an ATO report published last month, the original outage was caused by multiple component failures on the primary SAN, while the impact of the outage was compounded by the design and configuration of the SAN. The ATO attributed the February outage to issues related to these hardware faults.

The ATO has now said that it is doing everything it can to "minimize the risk of being exposed to systems incidents in the future." However, it does anticipate further "minimal disruption" to its services as it continues to implement the IT improvements identified in the report.

The ATO confirmed that it will not impose penalties for failure to lodge on time for tax returns and activity statements due to be lodged from December 2016 to the end of August 2017, providing the lodgement is received by August 31, 2017.

This applies to the following obligations: 2016 tax returns; monthly activity statements for November 2016 to July 2017 inclusive; 2017 Pay As You Go installment activity statements for quarters two and three; and 2017 Quarterly activity statements for quarters two and three.

The ATO said these arrangements will be put in place automatically.

The ATO's statement added that its results to date for "Tax Time" (which began on July 1) indicate that it is "on the right track and in large part, the systems are working as expected." It has received over 700,000 income tax lodgements from individuals and tax agents, and has issued over AUD500m (USD382.4m) in refunds.

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