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ATO Moves To Reassure Taxpayers After Online Outage

by Mary Swire,, Hong Kong

19 December 2016

Australian Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan has said that there has been no loss or compromise of data as a result of a recent "significant and unprecedented failure of storage hardware."

According to Jordan, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) "suffered its worst unplanned system outage in recent memory."

Jordan explained that the storage hardware was upgraded in November 2015 and "was seen to be 'state-of-the-art' at the time." He said that the failure was compounded by the subsequent failure of the ATO's back-up arrangements to work as planned, meaning that restoration and resumption of data and services "has been very complex and time consuming."

The Commissioner moved to reassure taxpayers that they will not be disadvantaged as a result of the outage. He said that taxpayers who were unable to make payments or lodge forms will not be penalized. All refunds that were due to be issued when the system went down on December 12 have now been processed, and will be paid on December 16 and 17. Any other refunds still in the system will be fast-tracked.

There have been media reports that the ATO lost one petabyte of data. However, the ATO said that this figure "relates to storage capacity, which includes not only data but applications and systems as well."

"This figure does not relate to data impacted by outages. While we experienced some data corruption, we are in the process of fully restoring this data from back-up. No data has been lost."

The ATO website, the Tax Agent Portal, BAS Portal, and Business Portals are now up and running. The ATO is continuing to work on the stabilization of ATO online services.

Jordan announced that there will be an independent review of the outage, to determine the nature of the failures and their root causes, the adequacy of the ATO's backup and contingency arrangements, and the likelihood of recurrence. In addition, the review will consider the ATO's immediate response to the failure, its management of the business resumption processes, and the effectiveness of its communication with taxpayers.

"I will be doing everything I can to learn from what has happened this week and to put in place any necessary changes to minimize the risk of any recurrence," Jordan said.

TAGS: tax | business | value added tax (VAT) | goods and services tax (GST) | Australia | tax authority | services

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