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  • ATO systems report

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    Commissioner’s foreword

    It almost goes without saying that harnessing technology and using digital channels is the way of the future. Technology offers our clients, agents and the ATO great efficiencies with automation of simpler tasks, freeing us up to work on things of greater value.

    In the future, the vast majority of taxpayers will use our digital services to send and receive information and payments, and to complete transactions in real time.

    We acknowledge that these new ways of working bring their own challenges and to maintain the trust and confidence of the community, we need to ensure the technology upon which we, our partners and our clients depend is secure and reliable.

    The system outages that we experienced in December 2016 and February 2017 were unexpected and to our knowledge unprecedented. I can also say that in no way did our new products and services under our reinvention program cause the outages.

    Once the December outage occurred, we in the ATO and our contract service provider, Hewlett Packard Enterprises (HPE) acted immediately, with HPE making available resources from across the globe. HPE staff cooperated and communicated openly with us, working tirelessly around the clock, including through the Christmas period, to ensure our systems and services were restored as quickly as possible. This report explains what happened to our IT systems, the impacts on our stakeholders, the ATO responses, and what we are doing to improve our services in the future.

    We are very mindful of the disruption that the outages caused the community and our key stakeholders – tax practitioners, the superannuation industry and software providers – and I apologise again for the inconvenience that has been experienced.

    No taxpayer data has been lost or compromised as a result of the outages and government revenue for 2016–17 has not been impacted. Further to this, all refunds were paid inside our service standards and any affected taxpayers were automatically allowed additional time to lodge or make payments to us.

    Our priority has been, and is, to ensure stability, reliability and availability of our services to the community, our key stakeholders and government. To this end, we have begun implementing a range of measures to enhance the stability and resilience of our systems, which includes the replacement of the faulty hardware that caused the outages.

    With these measures in place, we are confident that when Tax Time 2017 commences on 1 July 2017, we can match the experience of Tax Time 2016 and taxpayers will be able to lodge their returns and receive their refunds.

    Our contract service providers, HPE and DXC Technology, continue their forensic investigations into the root causes of these outages, including laboratory testing of decommissioned equipment. If these tests suggest significantly different issues we will provide an addendum to this report.

    In developing this report, we have drawn from numerous sources, including feedback from clients and stakeholders, technical analysis from our service providers and a separate independent review. In addition, we conducted a review to draw lessons from the response to these incidents and to improve our services to the people and enterprises of Australia and our partners.

    This report is based on our current understanding of the issues related to the outages as at 8 June 2017.

    Chris Jordan AO

      Last modified: 21 Dec 2017QC 52487