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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