ATO systems down again: Accountants lose patience after a horror two months

The Australian Taxation Office warned users in December that it was expecting continued intermittent dropouts of services after a massive outage at the end of 2016—and frustrated business owners are once more pleading for compensation after critical ATO systems were wiped out again on Thursday.

On the weekend of December 12 the tax office experienced a major outage of its main website, tax agent portal and business portal, which has been causing headaches ever since. After more than two weeks of problems in the lead up to Christmas, most services were brought back online before the end of the year.

At the beginning of 2017, the ATO informed users there was “more work to be done to return our services to normal” and that they should expect some reduced functionality. On Thursday morning portal services were hit again, due to what the ATO says are issues “relating to the hardware faults that occurred in December”.

The tax office—which has tasked PricewaterhouseCoopers with conducting an independent review into the outages, to be reported on in March—is engaging with customers individually on Facebook and Twitter, apologising to furious accountants and tax agents who say their processes have been completely thrown out once again.

The situation prompted renewed calls for small businesses to be compensated as the lack of online services has meant many tax professionals face a persistent backlog of client caseloads.

Some clients who have received notifications of overdue tax bills are now unable to log on to the ATO systems to resolve the issue. The ATO is telling clients to “please keep an eye on our Facebook page for updates on our system/outage” and to make contact by phone with any questions about their accounts.

At 4:30pm an update was issued confirming the systems will not come back online on Thursday. The ATO plans to provide an update on Friday morning and has apologised to clients for the inconvenience.

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Gail Freeman
4 years ago

Down again today. We are told that we have to communicate via the portal. I have clients for whom I need to make lodgement extensions, payment arrangements, various deferrals and our hands are tied. What do we do when a lodgement extension expires today and we can’t lodge because of lodgement and portal problems? We can’t confirm account balances and advise our clients what they need to do and to pay. Whilst we understand the ATO’s difficulties a contingency plan should have been put in place to assist us to do the everyday tasks that the portal being down has stopped. Tax agents need more certainty than open ended notices on the portal. Please let us know when we can expect it to be back on line so that we can plan our work accordingly. Also when the work in a small tax accounting business dries up so does the cash flow it is also about time that this aspect was considered.

4 years ago

ATO requires tax agents to ‘go digital’, and then turn the lights out!

TrustOne Partners
TrustOne Partners
4 years ago

Seriously – the fact that they’re telling us to request an extension rather than automatically granting one is rude, inconsiderate and demeaning. Get you act together ATO, #taxagentsrevolt

4 years ago

ATO, you make it really difficult for us to meet good client relationships and expectations. System outages plus 28 delays in processing if we lodge a request – ouch.
We should be able to do this better?