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The Australian Taxation Office’s technology outages have prompted calls for accountants to be compensated for lost time and productivity.
The portal downtime coincides with the release of the Inspector General of Taxation Report, which highlights deficiencies in compensation for losses arising from major ATO changes in process or information technology (IT).
“We are constantly being reassured by the ATO that it will fix its system going forward and practitioners can expect more robust ATO interactions from the deployment of better technology in 2017,” IPA CEO Andrew Conway said.
“These reassurances are now falling on deaf ears of our members when the portal goes down for two days this week.”
Mr Conway said the ATO previously acknowledged the technology and administrative changes combined with the existing ATO portal issues had “added to the frustrations and lost productivity for many small tax practitioners”.
While the ATO was “acutely aware” of the technical issues and the impact this had on accounting practitioners, Mr Conway said it was the IPA’s responsibility to continually “voice the concerns on behalf of [IPA] members”.
“Our members have highlighted to us on many occasions that they have suffered productivity loss, missed deadlines and incurred irrecoverable costs, as well as damage to their reputations and relationships with their clients,” Mr Conway said.
“Our member feedback has consistently stated that the ATO portal, which is an essential tool of trade for practitioners and agents, has been a constant point of frustration due to the portal’s instability and unreliability.”
Mr Conway said the IPA consistently provided the ATO with real-life examples of practical issues, and would “continue to work with the ATO to ensure the system is fixed for all concerned".
The ATO told tax professionals it still has a “significant” amount of work to do to stabilise its systems.
“As we perform this work, you may experience intermittent issues using the portals over the next few days. You can help by restricting your use of the portals to essential work only. If you have trouble accessing the portal, try again later,” it said.
Accountants should note that information displayed on the portal may not be current, since the ATO is still in the process of restoring data.
“Please be assured that no data has been lost and that up-to-date information will be displayed as we complete the data restoration,” the tax office said.
Those using the electronic lodgement service (ELS) can still make lodgements, although processing will be delayed. The Waymouth (Adelaide) gateway is not available but tax agents can lodge through the Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane gateways.
With respect to the November monthly activity statement due next week, the ATO will provide a deferral for lodgement and payment.
“More information will be available in a later alert. Please do not lodge a deferral request,” it said.