No end for ATO tech nightmare

Denham Sadler
National Affairs Editor

Yet another IT failure at the Australian Taxation Office has given the Opposition more ammunition to attack the government’s much-maligned history of digital transformation.

During peak tax return time, the ATO’s online services crashed for seven hours last Monday, creating an angry backlash from frustrated accountants who are now calling for compensation from the government for lost time during their busiest season of work.

The latest failure is another in a series of unplanned outages that have plagued the Tax Office since last December, leading Commissioner Chris Jordan to warn that the faults were now undermining the ATO’s reputation.

“There is no getting away from the fact that these matters have had a negative impact on the ATO’s standing in the community. I understand only too well we have ground to make up,” Mr Jordan said last month.

The ATO has now confirmed that its services crashed yet again earlier this week.

“Some tax professionals have experienced intermittent disruptions when lodging tax returns in the practitioner lodgement service, and standard business reporting. The problem has mainly impacted individual tax return lodgement transactions,” an ATO spokesperson said.

Labor has let rip at the government’s sordid history with large-scale digital projects, with digital economy spokesman Ed Husic taking the lead.

“Labor has urged the Turnbull government to come clean on what is happening, but Malcolm Turnbull remains silent. It’s unacceptable that repeated outages – occurring over more than six months now – have impacted on tax time this year,” Mr Husic told

“The Turnbull government’s management of digital services is appalling, and they’ve repeatedly dodged answering questions about it. This isn’t good enough.

“The ATO outages around Christmas and New Year were part of the reason why Labor called for an independent review into the Turnbull government’s dismal record on digital transformation. But they have not acted.”

The Digital Transformation Agency has also revealed for the first time that it has engaged with the ATO on its digital services. The agency has previously been criticized during Senate estimates for not intervening following the series of crashes.

A DTA spokesperson has confirmed to that it has engaged with the ATO through its role of overseeing large business systems.

“The ATO are responsible for their operations and therefore have responsibility for managing things like technical system outages,” the spokesperson said.

“The DTA is establishing an ongoing oversight role of major ICT projects and critical business systems that gives the government a more comprehensive picture of the costs, benefits and status of projects worth more than $10 million.

“The DTA is engaging the ATO on its large business systems and projects under this program.”

The DTA has also recently worked with the Department of Human Services on the trouble-plagued revamp of the myGov platform.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

Leave a Comment

Related stories