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ATO systems update

Commissioner's statement -  ATO systems

08 Feb 2017.

Claims made in today’s media that Tax Time 2017 is under threat due to our recent system outages are completely without foundation.

We are absolutely confident that taxpayers will be able to lodge their returns and receive refunds on time from 1 July.

It is disappointing that some people are trying to create unnecessary mischief during what has already been a challenging and testing time for the community and the ATO. This is very unfortunate as it undermines the commitment and good work that our people have undertaken to return ATO services to normal operation and bring them back online as quickly and reliably as possible.

Initial indications are there has been a failure by Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) to provide contracted services in a reliable way and ensure stability of our systems. The cause of the failures will be informed by the review led by PwC that I commissioned after the first outage in December 2016. As I said at that time, I want to know what happened in forensic detail so that we can assure the community they will not face this kind of disruption in their dealings with us, that businesses who rely on our services can go about running their business without interruption.

I can assure the community that we are taking this seriously and it has the highest priority. I have already met a number of times with the most senior HPE representatives in the region and corresponded with their CEO to ensure they are aware of the disruption and damage this kind of event causes and remind them of their contractual arrangements.

Our immediate priority is to provide stable services to the community, business, our key stakeholders and government.

Our ATO technicians are working with HPE’s global team of experts to fully replace the affected hardware. This ongoing work will ensure we can meet the deliverables for the Government’s legislative agenda and our priority services that support the community’s engagement with the tax and super systems.

We are committed to offering contemporary and reliable services to the community. The development and release of many new service offerings under our Reinvention program have not contributed to these system outages. Initial indications are that the outages have been caused by faulty hardware.

I commit to you we will get to the bottom of this, fix it for the longer term and maintain contemporary and reliable services to the community.


System outages - morning update

06 Feb 2017, 6:30am AEDT.

We are pleased to report that most of our systems are back up and running, with core services used by our clients, including the Tax Agent, Business and BAS Agent Portals, ATO Online services, and Standard Business Reporting (SBR) services now available.

Superannuation online services will be ramped up over the course of this morning.

We are in final stages of restoration of the Australian Business Register (ABR) and expect it to be available shortly.

We expect the remainder of our services to become available throughout the day.

Our clients may experience some slowness as further work is undertaken to improve the overall performance of our systems.

Our focus will now turn to building system resilience to best ensure the stability of our services to the community.

Further information will be posted on this site as this work continues. 

We thank the community for their continued patience.



System outages - evening update

05 Feb 2017, 10:00pm AEDT.

Restoration efforts are progressing well and engineers are now undertaking technical verification of our systems.

This will continue throughout the night with a view to services being available tomorrow.

Work has also been completed to ensure we have appropriate contingencies in place which is giving us increasing confidence that we will at least have our core client services available tomorrow.

We will provide a more detailed update early tomorrow morning.


System outages - afternoon update

05 Feb 2017, 1:20pm AEDT.

Engineers from Hewlett Packard Enterprise and the ATO continued system restoration efforts overnight and this morning. 

Good progress has been made as we work towards having services available for clients on Monday. This will however be subject to ongoing testing of the integrity and stability of the system.

We will provide further updates later today about the availability of services tomorrow.


System outages - afternoon update

04 Feb 2017, 5:45pm AEDT.

HPE, with the support of our ATO technicians, are continuing work over the weekend to restore our systems.

At this stage we do not expect services to be available tomorrow, Sunday 5 February. However we will update you tomorrow if these circumstances change. 

While we are working as quickly as we can, we cannot make services available to the community until the integrity of the system is confirmed.

Once this is confirmed, our priorities become:

  • First, making our services available to our key impacted stakeholders – tax practitioners, the superannuation industry and software developers – and the community more broadly;

  • Second, building system resilience to best ensure the stability of our services to the community; and

  • Third, increasing the capacity of our systems to deliver the services the community expects.

Also, while recognising that PwC are undertaking an independent review into the outages, we can confirm that hardware faults caused both the December outage and this outage, although we understand that the exact nature of the respective faults is different.

To provide better services in the future we have commissioned a new Storage Area Network (SAN) which has arrived on ATO premises. This new system will contain vast amounts of ATO data and it is currently being configured to provide more reliability and stability. The nature and scope of the ATO’s SAN means that this process of replacing the affected hardware will take some time.

We recognise the ongoing impact this is having on our stakeholders and the broader community and thank them for their ongoing patience.


System outages - afternoon update

03 Feb 2017, 2:05pm AEDT.

The ATO continues to work with our partners from Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) on work to restore ATO systems and services.

HPE continue to deploy their global resources to restore the ATO systems and the associated infrastructure. Once this restoration is complete, our staff will work to make ATO services available for the community.

Due to an unforseen complexity in the system restoration process, our services are unlikely to be available before close of business today.

We fully acknowledge the significant impact this is having on our key stakeholders, who rely heavily on the availability of our systems and services. We apologise for the inconvenience and disruption this has caused.

While everything is being done to restore our systems as quickly as possible, we cannot make services available to the community until the integrity of the system is confirmed.

We will continue to keep the community informed as this work continues.



System outages - morning update

03 Feb 2017, 9:30am AEDT.

Specialist ATO and HPE technicians have worked through the night to restore our systems and online services. While there has been significant progress on their restoration plan, the process is highly complex.

We would like to reiterate that no data has been lost, and our systems have not been compromised.

Work will continue around the clock with an immediate focus on restoring priority services – the Tax Agent, Business and BAS Portals, ATO online, the Australian Business Register (ABR), Standard Business Reporting (SBR), and Superannuation online services. Our website www.ato.gov.au is working intermittently.

The performance of different systems may vary as this restoration process is undertaken.

When further work on the restoration has been completed we will issue another update to the community about when they can expect normal services to resume.

Thank you for your continued patience during this time.


System outages - afternoon update

02 Feb 2017, 4:30pm AEDT

Unfortunately we are continuing to experience issues with the systems impacted by this morning’s outage. These systems will not be available today.

We are working to resolve these issues as a priority, and will continue to keep the community informed of our progress.

We will issue a further update tomorrow morning.

We apologise for the inconvenience this is causing.


System outages

02 Feb 2017, 11:00am AEDT

The ATO is experiencing issues relating to the hardware faults that occurred in December. We are replacing the affected hardware, but this process will take some time. Unfortunately, these issues are impacting services including the Tax Agent, Business and BAS Portals, ATO online, the Australian Business Register (ABR), Standard Business Reporting (SBR), and Superannuation online services.

No taxpayer information has been lost or compromised and all available resources are working to resolve this as a priority.

We apologise for any inconvenience taxpayers have experienced.

We will continue to keep the community informed through this page and social media.

Independent review underway into system outage

24 Jan 2017, 1:55pm AEDT

We have appointed PwC to conduct an independent review into the unplanned system outage which we experienced in December last year. PwC was appointed because of their specific expertise with the ICT storage that is at the centre of the incident.

The review will help us to fully understand what happened and why, and what needs to be done to ensure we are not exposed to this type of incident in future. The PwC review is due to be finalised in March.

We are also conducting our own internal review which will focus on our key stakeholders, including tax professionals and software developers.

All of our external facing client systems and portals have been restored and are operational.  We do not anticipate any further outages in the short term.

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


Planned weekend outage 14-15 January 2017

11 Jan 2017, 9:00am 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, 04:00pm 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: Tuesday 03 January

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.

Update: Friday 30 December

30 Dec 2016, 7:00PM AEDT

ATO online services will be available on Saturday 31 December.


Update: Christmas closedown and systems availability

29 Dec 2016, 9:00AM 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.


Christmas closedown and systems availability

22 Dec 2016, 4:55PM 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 shiftsover 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, 1:47PM 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. 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 failover 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, 8:51AM 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, 5:50PM 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. 

FAQs

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.


Website now online

13 Dec 2016, 06:38PM AEDT

Our website is now back online at ato.gov.au for you to access tax and super information. Thank you for your patience.

You may find you’re unable to access certain tools, calculators and our online services (such as the portals) while we continue working to restore all of our services.  

If you’re still seeing a website maintenance page when you visit the site, we recommend clearing your browser cookies and cache.


Tuesday afternoon update

13 Dec 2016, 04:30PM AEDT

ATO experts continue to work with our partners at HPE to secure and restore IT services.

We will work with all clients to ensure that nobody is disadvantaged as a result of these systems issues.

Alternative work arrangements have been made for those ATO staff impacted by the outage.

We hope to resume key services like the Tax Agent Portal and some services on ato.gov.au later today.

After full restoration, investigations will continue on the cause of the outage to ensure we treat the underlying issues and determine why the switch-over to back-up systems failed on this occasion.


Media statement from acting Chief Information Officer Steve Hamilton.

13 Dec 2016, 01:11PM AEDT

The ATO is working closely with our external service provider Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) to resolve the issues with our online services, portals and website.

No taxpayer information has been compromised.

Specialist engineers have been working through the night with ATO staff to rectify the outages.

These outages relate to a new hardware storage solution that was upgraded in November 2015. 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 HPE to determine the underlying cause. While these investigations are ongoing, we have had to implement alternative recovery procedures that are taking longer to complete.

At this stage, we are working towards critical systems such as the Tax Agent Portal and ato.gov.au being available later today.

We apologise for any inconvenience our clients may have experienced. 

We have the right people with the right skills who are committed to restoring our services as quickly as possible. 

We will provide further updates during the day.

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.