Confused business owners and tax professionals continue to express frustration with the Australian Taxation Office, with complaints of phone help lines dropping out as online systems continue to be restored after a massive outage 10 days ago.
On Sunday, December 11, the ATO experienced a major outage of its website and online tax lodgement services, including the tax agent portal, business portal and Australian Business Register site.
Technicians spent the following days working with the tax office’s storage hardware provider Hewlett Packard to restore data, systems and platform software from backups.
Services slowly came back online last week, but the Australian Business Register only achieved “limited functionality” on Tuesday. The ABR platform is used by businesses, governments and individuals to apply for Australian Business Numbers and update business details.
The ATO has repeatedly told the Australian public that no individual or business will be disadvantaged by the outages. The deadline for lodging monthly Business Activity Statements (BAS) is today, but clients are now being told there will be no penalties or interest for failing to lodge before January 10, 2017.
“We encourage lodgment and payment of the November monthly Business Activity Statement on time. However, anyone experiencing difficulties with lodging or making payments due to our system outages will not be subject to penalties, interest or follow-up action providing lodgment and payment is made by 10 January 2017. These concessions will be automatically applicable without taxpayers, agents or their advisors contacting the ATO,” said ATO chief information officer Ramez Katf in a statement last night.
Several accountants and tax agents have told SmartCompany last week they are now well behind on completing client work due to last week’s outage. It appears difficulties are continuing, with business owners continuing to complain of slow services or the inability to complete some tasks just two days out from the ATO’s Christmas shutdown.
Some businesses have reported that ATO phone lines either keep them on hold for an extended period or dropped out completely. When SmartCompany tried to phone the general business information line this morning, it initially reported that the service was unavailable due to a technical difficulty. It was online and placing callers in a queue at 9:30am.
Some business owners have said the outage has meant updates to business details lodged via the ABR system have taken an extended period to update, meaning records in the ABN lookup platform may not be up to date.
“This is an absolute joke,” said one comment writer on Facebook. “Four days to update something (which took 5 minutes) and now 6 days on and still not updated on the ABN lookup.”
“I’ve been trying to call you guys all day but I keep getting a recorded message saying you are experiencing technical issues…Any chance of you guys calling me?” said another.
Individuals and businesses have been complaining about a broad range of ATO services operating with only limited functionality. This includes the inability to complete superannuation return applications for temporary residents and obtain payment reference numbers for voluntary higher education loan repayments, with a policy that gives a 5% discount for upfront payments due to end on December 31.
Updates from the tax office continue to be posted via its systems update portal and Facebook.
The ATO will commence Christmas shutdown at 12:00pm on December 23 and reopen on January 3.