ATO online system buckles under the weight of tax returns

ATO online system buckles under the weight of tax returns

 

System issues with the Australian Taxation Office’s online services may continue to cause problems for taxpayers and businesses wanting to file their tax returns using myTax or eTax this week.

Issues with the ATO’s online services have been ongoing since the end of financial year last week, with the ATO revealing on Wednesday it was experiencing intermittent problems with its online services.

Further updates via social media on Thursday indicated an attempt at a system fix overnight hadn’t resolved the issue, and the system was still running slow.

 

Prior to last week’s problems, the ATO had been spruiking its expanded range of online services as a faster and more efficient way of lodging tax returns.

Assistant Commissioner Graham Whyte said in a statement before July 1 that two million Australians were expected to lodge using the service in 2015, thanks in no small part to expanded eligibility for taxpayers wanting to use the myTax system.

“The launch of myTax last year was a massive step ahead for us in terms of making lodgement quicker and easier for the everyday punter,” he said.

“This year, myTax has been expanded and is available to people with income, tax offsets or deductions from superannuation pensions, lump sum payments, managed investment funds and foreign pensions.”

But H&R Block director of tax communications Mark Chapman said system problems might have compounded difficulties experienced by users wanting to use the tax office’s online services early in the new financial year.

“Quite apart from technical glitches, much of the pre-filled income information that users rely on simply won’t be available until August or sometimes even later, which increases the risk of submitting a return that isn’t complete,” Chapman said in a statement.

By Friday, a statement appeared on the ATO’s website indicating it was continuing to work to get its systems “back on track”, and urged taxpayers to delay lodgement where possible.

“We acknowledge this is frustrating for you and we’re working around the clock to make it better,” the statement said.

“This will continue over the weekend where we’ll have some further system outages in an effort to fix things.

“For those of you who can delay your lodgement, you might have a better experience if you try again after the weekend.”

Executive director of taxation consulting at Pitcher Partners, Leon Mok, told SmartCompany the system problems likely came down to a “rush” for people wanting to get their tax return quickly.

“The rush is by those who feel very compelled to comply straight away or have refunds straight away,” he says.

“I think the major reason is too many people are trying to access the system and downloading eTax.”

He says while it was inconvenient when the system goes down, the “silver lining” was people were trying to get their tax compliance up to date as soon as possible.

“They’re trying to use the product to get their tax returns done,” he says.

He says one thing people could do to help themselves avoid the large rush to lodge returns would be to ask their employer to vary the PAYG withholding amounts throughout the year.

“Instead of having so much taken out to get it back at end of year, take less out and have no rush for a big return at the end of the year,” he says.

An ATO spokeswoman told SmartCompany in a statement on Monday afternoon the performance of its systems over the weekend had “improved”.

About 183,000 people lodged their returns electronically and more than 56,000 using myTax, the spokeswoman said.

“We are working to ensure the community has a positive experience using our online services. In some cases our services are still having issues and we continue to work around the clock to improve things.

“We thank people for their continued patience and apologise for the inconvenience.”

*This article was updated to include a comment from the ATO at 8.30am on July 7.

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