The Australian Tax Office is predicting more outages

Angus Kidman 13 July 2017

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"There may be some further minimal disruption to our services". Uh-oh.

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) has not had a good run over the past year. Some spectacular hardware fails last December resulted in repeated outages to its online services. Then, just last week, it was forced to take all its systems offline so it could reboot its mainframe computer.

Yesterday, the ATO issued a statement explaining how it was dealing with the latest problems. While last year's events were due to failures in a specific HPE storage system, this year there is a range of issues at play. The ATO says the problems "have been caused by other hardware or mainframe issues and sometimes simply human error".

But the big takeaway from the announcement is confirmation that the outages almost certainly aren't over:

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 that there may be some further minimal disruption to our services as we continue work to implement the IT improvements identified in the report.

I have some sympathy for the ATO here. Identifying problems and fixing faults in complex IT systems isn't easy. But I also have plenty of sympathy for tax agents and individuals who want to get their returns in during peak tax season and find that they can't.

The one bit of good news that's emerged here is that you won't be penalised if you haven't been able to submit crucial returns or business activity statements because of the outage. In particular, the ATO says that any documents from December 2016 that were due to be lodged this month won't be subject to penalties, provided they are lodged by 31 August 2017. Based on the last year, this may not be the last concession of this type we see.

If you're a regular salaried taxpayer, your tax return for 2016/2017 isn't due until 31 October, but you can submit it as soon as you have your payment summary from your employer. Check out our Tax Time 2017 round-ups to see what's new this year.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears Monday through Friday on finder.com.au.

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