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Friday, 21 July 2017

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) has announced it will automatically remit or refund any penalties for late lodgments associated with its most recent IT outage on 5 July, coinciding with the peak tax return season and the start of ‘Tax Time’.

The ATO has been severely embarrassed by the outage which came on the same day as a major address by Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan to publicise the start of the tax return season.

The ATO said it could not guarantee there would not be further outages. “While we are doing everything we can to minimise the risk of being exposed to systems incidents in the future and the resulting impact these incidents have on our stakeholders, we do anticipate there may be some further minimal disruption to our services as we continue work to implement the IT improvements identified in the report.”

It said “Failure to lodge (FTL) on time penalty will not be imposed for tax returns and all activity statements due to be lodged from December 2016 to the end of August 2017, where lodgment is received by 31 August 2017. This applies to the following obligations:
• 2016 tax returns
• Monthly activity statements - November 2016 to July 2017, inclusive
• 2017 PAYG instalment activity statements - Quarter 2, Quarter 3
• 2017 Quarterly activity statements - Quarter 2, Quarter 3.

“If FTL penalty has been imposed on any of the above obligations for your clients, we will remit it. You do not need to apply for the remission. We will commence the remission of FTL penalties shortly and will advise when it has been completed.”

The ATO voluntarily took its online services including myTax, BAS Agent, Tax Agent and Business Portals, Standard Business Reporting (SBR), Australian Business Register (ABR) and case management systems offline on 5 July so it could reboot its mainframe to address "applications running incorrectly", it said. Internal processing systems were also impacted.

"No data has been lost and our systems were not compromised or subject to a cyber attack," it said. "We identified intermittent system issues early this afternoon (5 July) affecting our mainframe and impacting on our services to the community. This was caused by applications running incorrectly. We took controlled action to reboot our mainframe and resolve this issue.

"We then brought our services back online methodically to ensure system availability and stability."

The latest outage followed a storage failure with one of its two big IT contractors, Leidos, in June. That failure was unrelated to the damaging series of outages resulting from a collapsed HPE storage area network (SAN) last December.

The Tax Office said it was continuing to examine the cause of its recent IT issues.

The report about its 2016 IT outages found that improperly fitted cables, inactive monitoring tools, and a SAN design that promoted performance over stability and resilience had been the main factors behind the ongoing SAN problems. It also revealed that the SAN issues had been known about by HPE for six months prior to the initial December outage, but ATO staff had been kept in the dark by the contractor. The agency had also had little involvement in design decisions.

The ATO said Tax Time 2017 results so far indicated ATO systems were working as expected - it said it had received more than 70,000 income tax lodgements and had issued more than $500 million in refunds to date.

On the day of the outage Mr Jordan had told the National Press Club that IT issues had had an adverse effect on the ATO's reputation. "These outages were highly unusual and were disruptive for the users of our systems, particularly the tax profession, the superannuation and software industries," he said.

"I wish I could give you an ironclad guarantee that our systems would be available 100% of the time. That is simply not reality when you are talking about very large and complex systems


Click below to view source

ATO media release: Certainty for stakeholders who rely on ATO systems

ATO:ATO systems report

ATO: Certainty for stakeholders who rely on ATO systems

itnews.com.au: ATO warns taxpayers to expect further online outages

itwire.com: ATO says systems back after outage

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