ATO defends tax return delays

Says big efforts being made and that the 'cheque's in the mail...'

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) has defended itself on the state of stockpiled tax returns arguing its upgraded systems are working well and millions of tax returns have not been delayed.

In a statement issued by Second Commissioner, David Butler, the ATO said of the 11 million returns it process each year, it was estimated that the ATO had just 100,000 on hand over 30 days old.

The ATO also said 140,000 delayed cheques were currently being printed and would be with taxpayers by the end of next week.

“The new system is working well,” the statement reads. “We have already sent just over 1.1 million notices of assessment to individuals, of which 684,000 were refunds since we recommenced processing in mid-February.”

The ATO also claimed that some tax returns had been delayed due to a tax debt owing, an obligation due to the Child Support Agency and/or Centrelink or errors in a return.

Butler added that ATO staff were putting in an “extraordinary effort” to minimise the impacts of any delays on the community.

“We have brought in an additional 320 people, have extended work shifts and are working as much overtime as is possible,” he said. “We are in the process of bringing on an additional 500 temporary people over the next few weeks”

The change in tack is stark contrast to a statement issued in late March which apologised for delays in sending out 2008-09 income tax return notices of assessment as a result of an upgrade to its IT systems.

“I would like to reassure tax agents and the community we are doing everything we can to issue outstanding notices of assessment for 2008-09 income tax returns and I apologise for any inconvenience you have experienced,” Butler said on the ATO’s website.

“We know some people have experienced delays and frustration caused by our essential systems upgrade. Unfortunately, the size of the systems we deal with means they are incredibly complex. Also, given the importance of the tax and superannuation systems to Australia, we need to ensure the reliability of our processes. We appreciate the patience and support people have shown us.”

In January that ATO announced it would go ahead with the largest upgrade of its IT systems in its history.

In February it reported smooth sailing one week into the upgrade.

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