Accountancy businesses demand compensation after ATO outages

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using computer
A person uses a computer in this undated file image. Reuters/Sherwin Crasto

Small accountancy businesses are demanding share of money paid out by Hewlett Packard Enterprise following ATO outages. On Wednesday, the tax office had to take its services offline for at least five hours. Another letdown of its online systems came only weeks since the last round of failures.

The Institute of Public Accountants said it wanted compensation from the Australian Taxation Office as it ramped up its criticisms against the agency. The peak industry body for small to medium businesses demanded it members to get their share of the compensation HPE paid this year to the tax office.

Spokesman Wayne Debernardi said the outages are “blight” on the agency. He told The Guardian Australia that they acknowledge the ATO does everything it can to rectify the situation.

“We also understand that they’ve received compensation through their service provider, HPE, and we still believe our members, who are in the main small businesses, should also share in their compensation- it’s as simple as that,” Debernardi said. The spokesman added that more ATO outages would be unacceptable.

He said it would be too soon to fully determine the impact of Wednesday’s outages. Debernardi pointed out that previous outages had caused lost productivity and revenue. Employees were sent home or were forced to sit idle for long periods in some cases.

ATO outages

The most recent ATO outages affected individuals, accountants and businesses that use the ATO’s online tools, portals and website. Situations like this tend to hurt smaller firms specialising in tax as they usually cannot redeploy staff to other duties.

The ATO has explained that Wednesday’s outages were not associated to the HPE hardware failures this year. The agency assured no data was lost or compromised. It has also apologised for the inconvenience.

Frances Cawthra, the ATO’s acting chief operations, said the issues would have been worse had the agency not taken its systems offline. She admitted the outages would affect the tax office’s reputation.

“It’s very unfortunate and we of course understand that the community will be very upset and angry about the fact that the systems had to be brought down again,” Cawthra told the ABC’s AM program. Even ATO commissioner Chris Jordan has conceded the IT failures had a negative impact on the agency’s standing in the community.

The ATO has launched an investigation into the incident. The ATO outage has affected businesses like Standard Business Reporting, BAS Agent Portals and Tax Agent.

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