Tuesday, 18 June 2019 Sydney

Second Commissioner’s statement: Performance of ATO IT systems::

I would like to reassure the community about the performance of the ATO’s IT systems this tax time and comment on a degradation of our services experienced earlier this week.

Performance for Tax Time 2017 has already exceeded expectations with more than:

  • 7.9 million tax returns lodged to date – hundreds of thousands more than the same time last year
  • 6.1 million refunds issued, worth more than $17.7 billion
  • 78 million pieces of information have been pre-filled in tax returns, up 2% from the same time last year

Over the weekend of 23-24 September the ATO undertook a systems upgrade to implement significant improvements to our environments to improve the client experience and implement legislative changes. This was part of our planned program of regular system maintenance to update and implement upgrades to our systems.

In bringing our systems back online on Monday 25 September we identified issues affecting users of the Tax Agent Portal and made a decision to take some of our services, including ATO Online, and the Tax Agent, BAS and Business Portals, offline in order to rectify the problem immediately and ensure a better user experience.

Pleasingly, most tax agents were still able to complete and lodge returns through the Practitioner Lodgement Service during this time. As a result, we received the number of lodgments we would expect through the system on any given day at this time of the year.

As the Commissioner stated in his address to the National Press Club in July, we strive to ensure that our systems meet the needs and expectations of the community.

We do everything we can through real-time monitoring to detect and resolve issues before they have an impact on services to the community. It is a reality of our complex IT operating environment that the ATO does occasionally encounter unplanned issues with the systems we manage.  These issues can result in degradation, and in some cases unplanned outages, of our services.

We appreciate the patience and understanding of the community at these times and we know how important it is to improve their experience working with us.

We are in constant consultation with those who rely on our systems, especially the superannuation industry and tax and BAS agent community to understand their perspective and priorities and design future services.

We currently have a comprehensive program of work and significant investment to progressively deliver fixes to irritants, enhance systems performance and provide improved services over the next year.

A key focus of our efforts is to modernise and refresh the Tax and BAS Agent Portal to better meet the needs of the tax profession, complemented by a significant investment in delivering those same services to tax and BAS agents through software developers.

We are also working with the superannuation industry and the tax profession to improve our IT design and governance – for both day-to-day operations and longer term strategies.

Ramez Katf

Second Commissioner of Taxation and Chief Information Officer