Tax

ATO “investigating” another outage as accountants rage on social media

Emma Koehn /

The Australian Taxation Office is facing furious accountants this morning with reports its website had experienced another unplanned outage, right after a period of planned maintenance over Easter.

In December 2016 a massive systems outage rendered online tax services unusable for a number of weeks, with small businesses telling SmartCompany it had cost them thousands and resulted in many small accounting firms delaying their Christmas holidays due to a backlog of client work. 

The tax office engaged PriceWaterhouseCoopers to conduct an external audit of the events leading up to the December outage, with intermittent dropouts continuing into February as services came back online.

Over Easter the ATO informed its clients it would be conducting systems maintenance over the long weekend until Tuesday April 19, however, on Wednesday morning stressed accountants were reporting they were being met with “unknown message” errors when trying to access everything from the home page to the tax agent portal and business portal.

When asked for updates by the tax office, clients were told via social media the ATO was “investigating”, and asked some users to try alternative links and clear their browsing history before attempting to log in again.

“We’re investigating issues with our website as a priority. We apologise for the inconvenience,” a social media moderator told clients on Facebook.

The ATO has informed SmartCompany all systems are back up and running, and says the outage did not affect the Tax Agent, Business and BAS Agent Portals, ATO Online services, Standard Business Reporting (SBR), Australian Business Register (ABR) and Supertick superannuation service.

A spokesperson said the outage was not related to work done over the Easter break.

However, this disruption is more than four months after the initial hardware faults of December, and some users pointed out that despite being assured by the tax office more than three months ago that solutions were right around the corner, the online systems continue to be unpredictable and frequently unavailable.

“Why would the ATO think it a good idea to schedule maintenance of the business portal over the Easter break? I suspect many small business owners, like myself, would have set aside this long weekend to complete BAS! Clearly a hand-on-forehead moment,” one small business owner asked on Facebook.

“Some people are trying to run a business!” complained another.

The tax office, however, says it has scheduled planned maintenance work on weekends and public holidays to minimise disruptions to the community. It has another planned outage marked for the weekend of May 6 and 7.

When SmartCompany tried the home page, tax agent portal and business portal this morning, the home page displayed error messages, which had lifted by 10:30am.

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is a former senior journalist at SmartCompany.

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