Speedy responses needed for ATO review

Speedy responses needed for ATO review

Summary: With tax season nearly here, the Australian Tax Office (ATO) has called for quick submissions for its review of the issue-plagued IT systems overhaul.

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With tax season nearly here, the Australian Tax Office (ATO) has called for quick submissions for its review of the issue-plagued IT systems overhaul.

ATO

(Credit: Liam Tung/ZDNet Australia)

In January this year, ATO deployed the component of its new IT systems, which processes income tax returns and refund payments. The upgrade resulted in delays in refunds, incorrect dates of lodgement of tax returns and changed dates for payment liabilities for some users.

Assistant Treasurer Nick Sherry announced a review into the upgrade on 19 April, for which Inspector-General of Taxation Ali Noroozi yesterday provided submission guidelines.

"Time is of the essence with this review, because come July, it's tax time," Noroozi told ZDNet Australia. Any problems with the system would be magnified during that time, according to the inspector-general. Submissions are due by 7 June 2010.

He said that he had already indirectly received hundreds of complaints through accountant representative bodies, although the number of concerns received directly had been much smaller.

"These concerns include ... the ATO's inability to fix identified errors within reasonable times, the nature of the ATO's communication of the errors, the ATO's shifting advice on the time frames to fix those errors and the ATO's lack of awareness of the impact that such errors, delays and miscommunication have on taxpayers and tax practitioners," Noroozi said in a statement to announce the release of the guidelines.

Noroozi urged users to follow the guidelines and produce evidence-based submissions so that he could follow them up. On the one hand, he said he had users claiming there were a whole lot of problems with the system, while the tax office countered that there had only been two major problems resulting from human error. To investigate, some specific information was needed.

"Unless I get some kind of a pointer I'd be looking for a needle in a haystack," he said. The pointer might, for example, simply be a tax file number, or it could be providing an incorrect tax assessment notice, that would point out what was wrong.

Prior to the announcement of the review, some accountants had revealed they may sue the ATO for the impact the errors had on their business.

The tax office began the program to upgrade its IT systems back in 2004. The "Change Agenda", as it has now been renamed, has experienced delays and budget hikes, and is now expected to cost $879 million.

Topics: Government, Government AU

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Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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