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Fresh tax office website outages prompt calls for ‘heads to roll

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Industry experts say ‘the time for excuses is over’ after Australian Taxation Office website experiences outages and online portals used by tax agents go offline

The Australian Taxation Office has again experienced major failures with its online systems, prompting calls for heads to roll over the “unacceptable” outages.

Recurrent failures with the ATO’s online systems caused its website to be unavailable for extended periods on Thursday. Its online portals, which are heavily relied upon by tax agents, were also offline.

The ATO issued a statement late on Thursday afternoon apologising for the outages, and confirming its systems would be down for all of the day.

“We are working to resolve these issues as a priority, and will continue to keep the community informed of our progress,” the statement said.

The problems are linked to the major failure of the ATO’s relatively new storage systems, and their primary backups, in December. The ATO continues to insist that no data has been compromised at any point.

Thursday’s outages have sparked scathing criticism from the industry.

Following last month’s problems, the Tax Institute president, Arthur Athanasiou, had cautioned against rushing to judgment against the ATO.

Athanasiou, speaking to Guardian Australia in his capacity as a partner of Thomson Geer, has now lambasted the government and the ATO for failing to fix the fundamental problems with its systems.

“It’s just not good enough and no matter how many people you get in as consultants to identify the problem and identify fixes, it should have all occurred by now,” Athanasiou said.

“It’s certainly not a bad reflection on the ATO, but it is a bad reflection on government as a whole,” he said. “It is unacceptable, I just think that the time for excuses is over and heads have to roll.”

He said tax agents had been able to find other work to go on with while the ATO’s systems were down last December. Now, he said, they were heading into the busier period of the financial year.

“A lot of places are still catching up and mopping up from the first round of disruption and this is just going to exacerbate the problems they are experiencing,” he said.

“It really is unfair on the typical suburban tax agent. They must be pulling their hair out.”

The ATO’s initial statement on Thursday morning said it was replacing the affected hardware, but “this process will take some time”.

“Unfortunately, these issues are impacting services including the Tax Agent, Business and BAS Portals, ATO online, the Australian Business Register (ABR), Standard Business Reporting (SBR), and superannuation online services.”

“No taxpayer information has been lost or compromised and all available resources are working to resolve this as a priority.”

The ATO said it would provide further updates on Friday morning.

Online Source: The Guardian

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