Monday, February 15, 2010

Still waiting for your tax return?

It could be because the Tax Office computer has been off

Things will start to look up for as many as half a million taxpayers from today.

They're caught in a backlog that began on the Australia Day long weekend when the Tax Office took the unusual step of turning off the aging computer system that processes tax returns and transferring all 27 million taxpayer records and 280 million forms to a new one.

Until days ago scarcely a return had been processed since.

Some test runs have made a dent the backlog of 705,000 unprocessed returns and 111,000 were to have been processed over the weekend.

If all works well when the new system is run at full speed from this morning most of the backlog will be cleared by the end of the month.

But some taxpayers will wait longer... Second Commissioner David Butler told a Senate committee Wednesday it would take some time to properly link the Tax Office and CentreLink databases. Taxpayers dealing with the Child Support Agency and students claiming youth allowance will also experience problems.

Asked why the Tax Office couldn't continue to run the old system while it set up the new one Mr Butler said the two would get out of sync. "We had to essentially turn the old system off, move all the data to the new one and then start processing on the new system going forward," he told the Committee. The Tax Office would consider paying interest on late returns.

The $434 million project is 50 per cent over budget and behind time. Originally due for completion in late 2009, then on January 27, then on February 8, it needs to be operating reliably before March when the next wave of company tax returns arrive.

The Auditor General found the original timetable "ambitious and, in hindsight, optimistic."

Governments had repeatedly loaded more work onto new the system, including the administration of Labor's First Home Saver Accounts and the Coalition's changes to superannuation.

The new system will replace more than 180 old computer systems, some more than 3 decades old.

It will form the backbone of the new pre-filled internet tax return service and the optional government calculated automatic tax returns recommended in the Henry Tax Review.

Published in today's SMH  and Age 

Related Posts

. At last - the half hour tax return!

. Who the Tax Office is Targeting

. Guess what? Henry examined the evidence


SteveJ said...

After 50 years of I.T./Computing in the FedGovt, a $150-$200M over-run is so unremarkable that it attracts no comment. Even in Senate Estimates, nobody has ever challenged the parlous State of Practice. The closest we've come was (Minister) Joe Hockey questioning $30M being wasted on Centrelink's EDGE project...

What's going on???

This overspend/delay:
- Was it Predictable & Preventable?
- Has it Happened before?
- Why won't it happen again?

These questions aren't raised by ANAO. Apparently I.T./Computers are a "Consequence Free Zone".

Think of the private-sector managers who through incompetence or inaction caused the $150-$250M losses of DFAT's ADCNET system.

Did any of them suffer personal consequences? Indeed, how many of them continued working on Govt. contracts?

Is this Good Governance or Prudent Management or Effective use of Public Monies? You'd think Dept. of Finance would have an opinion under s44 of the FMAA.

Is it ever acceptable for Professionals to repeat or allow Known Faults, Failures and Errors?

So why do poor performances not only get accepted, but go unremarked and unchallenged.

A couple of real questions:
- Could the Fed. Govt. operate in the face of a major I.T. meltdown? What level of dependency is there in the Public Service on I.T./Computers?

- If we could only use 1965 technology, would there be any unemployment in Aus? What would it take to run ATO, Centrelink/etc, ABS, Defence, Customs, Finance/Treasury with limited technology?

The first commercial computer was sold in 1950. By 1960, computers were being used by Govt. orgs in Canberra.

By 1990, all Govt. financial and backend systems/apps were dependant on I.T./computer systems.

By 2000, all frontend/day-to-day operations were dependant on PC's and other systems.

Nick Carr asserted "I.T. Doesn't Matter" - as a competitive advantage, not as an essential business function.

But reasonable I.T. is essential for Government to operate these days.

Yet Politicians, Agency Heads, CIO's and the various bodies charged with ensuring "Efficient, Effective, and Ethical use of (public) resources" (as mandated by s44 of the FMAA) don't take an interest.


The FedGov knows very well how to create a high-performance culture and its importance in mission critical applications.

In Aviation, incidents/accidents are reported, catalogued and investigated by ATSB/BASI and a seperate compliance/enforcement Agency, CASA, that hands out direct and personal penalties.

This is why we no longer "Chance it with Ansett"... And when the system breaks down, the Yogyakarta crash of 2007 not only happens, but is inevitable.

I guess the question in this game of Russian Roulette is: On who's watch will it all come unravelled?

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