18 July 2019

It is not uncommon in the commercial world when customers are unexpectedly inconvenienced for compensation to be offered so it’s time for the ATO to recognise the damage caused by technology outages, according to the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA).

“We recognise the fact that the ATO has worked hard to fix system faults that have been a blight on its operations in recent years,” said IPA chief executive officer, Andrew Conway.

“System downtimes such as that experienced last week comes at a huge expense for many of our members and quite simply, a mere apology doesn’t go far enough.

“The Scheme for Detriment caused by Defective Administration (CDDA) is currently under review by the Government.

“The existing framework provides little scope for intermediaries such as tax agents to make a claim. It is not fit for purpose, especially in light of accountants facing rising costs from increased regulation and compliance requirements.

“Practitioners who lose productivity time need to be compensated. It is real time and it’s real income that is lost. Time is an accountant’s commodity.

“Tax practitioners have faced loss of income, lost productivity, psychological injury from stress and anxiety and reputational damage from system outages and where the digital journey has not gone smoothly; all matters outside of their control.

“Public accountants have to work double time to make up for the time lost caused by the ATO’s system failures, robbing them of family time on weekends and causing them significant stress.

“While we understand that outages are a fact of life, unless the provider is adversely impacted and share the pain, there will not be a change in their approach.

"Consideration should also be given to blanket redress arrangements in the event of a future digital disruption. We recognise that it can be difficult to quantify the non-economic losses and the fact that not all intermediaries are equally affected. This should not be a reason for not providing redress,” said Mr Conway.