My Business sister title Accountants Daily revealed that technology outages on the ATO’s portals on Friday, 12 July, blocked access for many accountants, meaning they were unable to complete work for their clients.
It is the latest in a series of outages that have impacted ATO portals, including on 4 June this year and a wave of problems experienced in 2017 and 2018.
That raised concerns about the resulting economic losses and potential reputational damage on individual accountants and their practices.
Accountants deserve compensation: IPA
Following the latest outage, accounting body the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA) called for the industry to be compensated financially.
“It is not uncommon in the commercial world when customers are unexpectedly inconvenienced for compensation to be offered, so it’s time for the ATO to recognise the damage caused by technology outages,” it said in a statement.
CEO Andrew Conway acknowledged that the ATO has “worked hard to fix system faults”, which he said had been “a blight on its operations in recent years”.
However, he said that apologies from the Tax Office don’t make up for the damage caused to tax practitioners who rely on the portals to carry out their services.
“System downtimes such as that experienced last week comes at a huge expense for many of our members, and quite simply a mere apology doesn’t go far enough,” Mr Conway said.
“The Scheme for Detriment caused by Defective Administration (CDDA) is currently under review by the government.
“The existing framework provides little scope for intermediaries such as tax agents to make a claim. It is not fit for purpose, especially in light of accountants facing rising costs from increased regulation and compliance requirements.”
He continued: “Practitioners who lose productivity time need to be compensated. It is real time and it’s real income that is lost. Time is an accountant’s commodity.
“Public accountants have to work double time to make up for the time lost caused by the ATO’s system failures, robbing them of family time on weekends and causing them significant stress.”
ATO dodges compensation debate
A spokesperson said the ATO did not have “exact figures” on the number of tax agents that were impacted by the latest outage, but said it was confined to only some users.
“The ATO systems experienced degraded performance throughout the day on 12 July, which impacted agents in different ways,” they told My Business.
“Some experienced no impact whilst others experienced slowness and degraded responses as well as for some time no access to the services in the agent portals or online services for agents.”
However, the ATO would not be drawn on the issue of compensation, and instead reiterated existing measures that are in place for dealing with service interruptions.
“The ATO always supports agents throughout these events when they experience practice related issues and keeps them informed through online messaging and alerts,” the spokesperson said.
“Where they are impacted we provide a variety of support options including deferrals and others to meet their individual needs.”