The Australian Tax Office's AU$700 million processing systems overhaul has been saved by the systems due to be replaced, according to first assistant commissioner Greg Dark.
The ATO announced yesterday there will be a four- to six-week delay to the roll-out of the superannuation component of its integrated core processing system (ICP), the back-end processing system for all the ATO's online tax services, such as fringe benefits, superannuation and income tax.
The delay has been caused by competing deadlines to roll-out its fringe benefits tax (FBT) product, according to the ATO's Dark.
"We thought some of the functionality had been completed as part of ICP, but since we weren't actually using it for FBT processing, we didn't find the problems until later in the testing cycle," Dark told ZDNet.com.au. "The whole program has been really aggressive in terms of the schedule, with FBT on at the same time as super. Although some areas overlap, there has been some 'robbing Peter to pay Paul', so FBT got priority [over superannuation] early on," he said.
Changes in legislation last year which affect superannuation payments added AU$220 million to the original estimated cost of between AU$400 and AU$450 million for the program, according to an ATO spokesperson.
However, the impact on taxpayers and business as a result of the delays announced yesterday will be minimal, thanks to ATO's legacy systems, according to Dark.
"It's not time critical and we can use our legacy systems until then," he said. "One of the things we've always kept is the reserve legacy option so if we do have problems we can still deliver. It's a comfy backstop."
The FBT processing system meanwhile remains dependent on the legacy systems, said Dark.
"The first business release was FBT, which was started at Easter. We have been rolling it out progressively, so you should see bits and pieces delivered as it's needed. The next release is tax time in July and we've already decided to do that in our legacy systems, but people will see new versions of e-tax, pre-filling and updates to the portals," said Dark.
Even after the completion of the program, the ATO will keep the legacy systems live in "read-only" mode.
"We need to maintain those systems because we use them for history. We will not bring over all the information since the beginning of time but we are having a cut off date of 2000 for information we bring across," said Dark.
The ATO expects to complete the Change Program in the first quarter of 2009.