• ATO systems update

    Media centre: Planned weekend outage 14-15 January 2017

    10 Jan 2017, 09.00am AEDT

    We will be conducting critical system maintenance again this weekend as we continue to restore our systems to full functionality.

    Our online services will be offline from 11.15pm (AEDT) Friday 13 January, until approximately 9am (AEDT) Sunday 15 January. We will advise you as soon as possible if there are any changes to this timeframe. Information about our systems continues to be updated on the website and through our social media channels.

    Our contact centres will also be closed on the weekend. If you need to phone us, our lines will be open until 8pm (local time) on Friday. We’ll be back to take your calls from 8am (local time) on Monday, 16 January.

    Planned weekend outage

    6 Jan 2017, 03:45pm AEDT 

    This week we have seen continued progress with efforts to restore our IT systems. Core services are stable and more systems are being brought online. 

    As part of ongoing work to restore the systems, we will be conducting critical maintenance this weekend. 

    Our online services will be offline from 10pm (AEDT) tonight, Friday 6 January, until approximately 9am (AEDT) Sunday 8 January. If there are changes to the outage schedule, we will advise you as soon as possible. The latest systems information can be found on our website and through our social media channels. 

    Our contact centres will also be closed on the weekend. If you need to phone us, our lines will be open until 8pm (local time) tonight, or 6pm for residents in WA. We’ll be back to take your calls from 8am (local time) on Monday, 9 January. 

    New year update

    3 Jan 2017, 09:45am AEDT 

    A significant amount of work has been undertaken over the Christmas break as we continue efforts to restore our services. 

    The performance of our core services such as the website and portals continue to improve and we are bringing other functions and tools back online every day. 

    The complexity of the restoration means there is more work to be done to return our services to normal. There may be some disruptions to service as this work is undertaken. 

    We will continue to use our website and social media to keep the community informed of our progress. 

    Christmas closedown and systems availability

    30 Dec 2016, 07:00pm AEDT


    ATO online services will be available on Saturday 31 December.

    29 Dec 2016, 08:20am AEDT


    The planned outage to ATO online services originally scheduled for 26 and 27 December has been deferred and will now commence at 10pm EDT on Friday 30 December. We expect these services to resume during the day on Saturday 31 December.

    ato.gov.au should be available during this period.

    This step in the restoration process is to ensure services impacted by the recent system issues are operating as well as possible at start of business on Tuesday 3 January. 

    22 Dec 2016, 04:55pm AEDT

    The ATO closes down between Christmas and New Year every year. Our contact centres will be closed from 4pm (local time) on Friday, 23 December 2016 and will re-open at 8am (local time) on Tuesday, 3 January 2017. ATO online services that are currently available, including portals, will remain available over this period, except for the public holidays on 26 and 27 December. The ATO website should remain available throughout this period.

    This is a usual closure period for the ATO to undertake scheduled systems maintenance. This year we will also be working during this period on the continuing restoration of our systems following the recent system outage. For these reasons, clients may experience intermittent disruptions to services during this period.

    Media statement: Tuesday 20 December

    20 Dec 2016, 4:20PM AEDT

    All business critical systems are live and performance is returning to normal as systems stabilise.

    In particular, the Australian Business Register (ABR) is now available but with reduced functionality. We expect full service to be restored in coming days, with Australian Business Number applications to be processed as soon as possible.

    Refunds that were due before Christmas will be paid. We are also processing payments of unclaimed super. ATO employees and casual staff worked overtime or extra shifts over the weekend to assist in reducing the backlog of processing work.

    We encourage lodgment and payment of the November monthly Business Activity Statement on time. However, anyone experiencing difficulties with lodging or making payments due to our system outages will not be subject to penalties, interest or follow-up action providing lodgment and payment is made by 10 January 2017. These concessions will be automatically applicable without taxpayers, agents or their advisors contacting the ATO.

    Any other taxpayer unable to make a payment or lodge a form as a result of the outage will not be disadvantaged.

    Media Statement

    16 Dec 2016, 02:03PM AEDT 

    Commissioner of Taxation, Chris Jordan AO on system outages

    Earlier this week, the ATO suffered its worst unplanned system outage in recent memory. This was an extremely unusual and unfortunate event with the outage caused by a significant and unprecedented failure of storage hardware. The storage hardware was upgraded in November 2015 by Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) after a lengthy and thorough selection process, and was seen to be ‘state-of- the-art’ at the time. We understand the use of this storage hardware is not unique to the ATO and is basically the same used by other large clients of HPE in Australia and across the globe.

    What compounded the problem beyond the initial failure was the subsequent failure of our back-up arrangements to work as planned. The failure of our back-up arrangements meant that restoration and resumption of data and services has been very complex and time consuming.

    Let me confirm there has been no loss or compromise of data.

    The issues we have experienced this week do not relate to our overall IT capability or skills.

    ATO staff and people at HPE have worked around the clock over the last week to bring systems back online progressively. Our website, the Tax Agent Portal, BAS Portal and Business Portals are up and running and we are seeing continued improvements in their functionality. We are continuing to work on the stabilisation of ATO Online services.

    We are realistic that there may be some intermittent performance issues in the next couple of days as the full restoration process proceeds.

    We, and HPE, will continue to work on the stability and performance of all of our systems and we will have staff working over the weekend to catch-up on any backlog of work.

    All refunds that were due to issue when the system went down on Monday have now been processed and will be paid today and tomorrow. Any other refunds in the system will be fast-tracked to ensure people get these payments as quickly as possible - we have devoted additional resources to ensure the vast majority of people get their refunds on time.

    I repeat a message we issued earlier in the week - no taxpayers will be disadvantaged as a result of the outage. This means if you needed to make a payment or lodge a form but couldn’t, you won’t be penalised. If you have any other concerns about how the outage might have affected you, please get in touch with us on 13 28 61.

    We know the outages this week have caused inconvenience, especially so close to Christmas, and I apologise for that. I’d like to thank our clients and partners, in particular tax and BAS agents, for their patience and understanding.

    As we return to normal operations next week, we will be fully investigating the events of the last week. There will be a comprehensive and independent review to help us answer the questions – exactly what happened, how and why, and what measures need to be taken to avoid such a situation in the future.

    The review will be conducted by an independent expert who will determine the nature of the failure(s) and their root cause(s), the adequacy of back-up and contingency arrangements, and the likelihood of recurrence.

    The review will also consider our immediate response to the failure, how we managed business resumption processes and the effectiveness of our communication with the community. We are refining the scope of the review and our latest version is attached to this statement.

    I will be doing everything I can to learn from what has happened this week and to put in place any necessary changes to minimise the risk of any recurrence. Please be assured that I am committed to providing a quality, reliable and contemporary service to the Australian community.

    Draft scope of review into ATO systems outage occurring 12 December 2016

    Following the outage of the ATO business systems that occurred from Monday 12 December 2016, the ATO will engage an independent expert to undertake an end-to-end review into what happened and why, and what needs to happen to ensure the ATO and the community are not exposed to this type of incident in the future.

    The independent reviewer will assist the ATO to fully understand the causes and impacts of the outage experienced and will provide the ATO with the following observations and advice:

    1. a definitive description of the failure and its root cause
    2. factors leading to the outage and contributing to the duration, scale, and scope of the outage
    3. adequacy of back-up and contingency strategies and arrangements and explanation as to why fail- over to our secondary site did not work
    4. adequacy of restoration and resumption procedures of technology, infrastructure and applications
    5. whether there is anything unique or unusual in the physical and technical ATO technology infrastructure and/or architecture and/or environment that suggests there is a high risk of a repeat or like failure
    6. adequacy, speed and robustness of the critical event response provided by various vendors and other non-ATO entities
    7. any other observations or advice on improvements to IT systems to prevent a re-occurrence of the issues, along with the indicative costs and benefits for any improvement options to be considered.

    The independent reviewer will also make observations about the ATO’s approaches to inform and update the community, the Government and staff on the situation. The ATO is also after feedback about its business continuity management and its capability to:

    1. detect the outage
    2. ascertain the scale and scope of the impacts
    3. mobilise sufficient response, and
    4. manage the recovery and resumption of business.

    Thursday morning update

    15 Dec 2016, 08:51AM AEDT

    We have again worked through the night with our partners to continue to restore functionality of our core systems.

    The Tax Agent Portal, BAS Portal and Business Portal are back online and we expect to see continued improvements in the functionality of these services, as well as ato.gov.au, today.

    We have done what we can to restore priority services and acknowledge there is a significant amount of work to stabilise our IT environment and bring remaining applications back online.

    We appreciate the community's patience today as there will be increased traffic through our systems as people start to use them again.

    We are also working to restore system and application related data that was affected by the outage. Once again, no taxpayer data has been lost.

    Our priority focus today is on restoring systems that process refunds, and we will fast-track refunds where we can in the lead-up to Christmas.

    Wednesday afternoon update

    14 Dec 2016, 06:45PM AEDT

    We have been continuing to work to restore a number of core services today including the Tax Agent Portal and the BAS Agent Portal. We’d like to thank the many tax agents who helped us work to verify and test these services today. We appreciate their efforts in trying circumstances.

    Over the course of Wednesday afternoon, we have experienced further performance issues as we have sought to restore our services. This has impacted the availability of our portals and ato.gov.au at different times of the afternoon.

    We are working on restoring the website and the portals to full functionality as a priority. Specialist technicians from the ATO and HPE will continue to work around the clock to restore these services. Once these have been restored, we will focus our efforts on other core services as well as processing payments and refunds.

    We anticipate that there may continue to be intermittent disruptions over the coming days as we continue the process to restore full services. The performance of different systems will vary as this restoration process is undertaken.

    We will continue to provide further updates as they become available.

    We’d like to reiterate that no data has been lost, and our systems have not been compromised. This is a complex restoration process requiring significant manual processing which unfortunately is taking longer than we expected to complete.

    We appreciate everyone’s patience as we undertake this restoration, and apologise for any inconvenience.

    Wednesday morning update

     14 Dec 2016, 10:04AM AEDT

    ATO experts and our partners at HPE have continued to work around the clock to bring our core systems back online.

    We can confirm that there has been no loss of data. While we experienced some corruption of data, we are in the process of fully restoring this information from back-up. No taxpayer information has been compromised.

    ato.gov.au has been live since yesterday afternoon. The links from the website to other impacted systems will be restored as these come back online. Our case management systems are back up and running.

    We are working towards bringing the Tax Agent Portal back online later today and will confirm when it is functional. 

    Other services will be brought online gradually over the coming days and we will continue to keep the community informed of our progress.

    We will work with any clients to ensure they are not disadvantaged because of the systems issues.

    We appreciate everyone's patience as we have worked through these issues and apologise for any inconvenience. 


    When will systems be back?

    Our website and case management systems are back online. The links from the website to other other impacted systems will be restored as these come back online. We are working towards bringing the Tax Agent Portal back online later today. Other services will be brought online progressively over the next few days.

    Have you lost one petabyte of data?

    No. The petabyte of data referred to in media reports relates to storage capacity, which includes not only data but applications and systems as well. This figure does not relate to data impacted by the outages. While we experienced some data corruption, we are in the process of fully restoring this data from back-up. No data has been lost.

    Was this caused by a cyber attack or denial of service?

    No. The issues were caused by a hardware failure and did not relate to any external factors.

    What caused the outage?

    We experienced a failure in our storage hardware. Our primary back-up systems, that should have kicked-in immediately, were also affected. We understand this is the first time this problem has been encountered anywhere in the world and we are working with our partners at Hewlett Packard Enterprise to determine the underlying cause. While these investigations are ongoing, we have had to implement alternative recovery procedures that took longer to complete.

    I needed to make a payment but have been unable to due to the systems issues. Will I be penalised?

    We will work with any client to ensure they are not disadvantaged as a result of the outage.

    I'm waiting on my refund and was expecting it for Christmas. Will there be delays?

    We will fast-track refunds where we can.

    Have ATO staff been sitting idle while these issues have been investigated?

    No. Our internal case management systems are back online and staff are able to perform normal duties. Alternative work arrangements were made over the past few days for any staff member who was unable to perform their normal duties due to the outages. Many staff were not directly impacted by the outages and were able to work as normal.

    How will you make sure this won't happen again?

    After full restoration, investigations will continue on the cause of the outage to ensure we treat the underlying issue.

    Last modified: 11 Jan 2017QC 50761