'

ATO sets key Change Program date

The Australian Taxation Office's Change Program steering committee last week approved the decommissioning of the office's 30-year-old income tax processing system, which has been the backbone for handling the income tax payments for millions of Australians.

The Australian Taxation Office's Change Program steering committee last week approved the decommissioning of the office's 30-year-old income tax processing system, which has been the backbone for handling the income tax payments for millions of Australians.

ATO CIO Bill Gibson
(Credit: ATO)

The $724 million Change Program project to modernise the agency's aging legacy systems has had a few hiccups over the past few years, missing deadlines and suffering a creeping budget, but the date the steering committee approved for switching to a new income tax system — 22 January 2010 — matches with the cautious date the ATO presented last September for moving this section of the project to the new integrated core processing system. The plan is to commence processing income tax returns in the new system from 1 February.

Despite a date being set, the committee will still review the progress each month and the ATO said it would not make a final decision on the deployment until December. "We are dealing with an incredibly complex program and have always taken the position we will only deploy a system when we are confident it is ready," the agency stated in its release.

IT services firm Accenture is the ATO's major partner for the Change Program work, although Capgemini also works with the agency on assurance. The overall project is also known as the "Change Agenda".

The system's complexity has already been proved by the project timeline, which was extended to cover a much longer time than had been intended. In May 2008, the agency still expected to complete the Change Program by the end of the first quarter of 2009.

Yet, following an internal review last September of the Change Program's Release 3, ATO chief information officer Bill Gibson said the new completion date for Release 3 would be 2010, bringing the program's deadline creep to around one and half years.

The agency did not mention other components of the program in its release today, but superannuation, business activity statements and first HomeSavers Account components are all scheduled to be moved onto the new platform next year. The Fringe Benefits Tax portion of the work was migrated onto the platform in March and April last year.

When the new core processing system comes into operation, it is hoped to provide ATO staff with a complete view of client transactions with the agency and real-time processing capabilities to enhance compliance with taxation rules.