Government online portal offline for hours

Picture: Supplied
Picture: Supplied

AUSTRALIANS trying to take advantage of new tax breaks have been stymied as the main government services online portal went down for several hours.

The deadline for reporting income to Centrelink has been extended to 7.30pm AEST on Friday after the outage.

The MyGov website and associated services came back up progressively from lunchtime after being offline for about four-and-a-half hours on Friday morning.

However, the Department of Human Services said some people may still have difficulty logging in while services were restored to full capacity.

Deadline for reporting income to Centrelink extended. Picture: Stock image.

General manager Hank Jongen asked that people without urgent business on the MyGov portal wait until services were fully restored.

“We understand the timing is unfortunate,” he said in a statement on Friday afternoon, apologising for the outage.

“An investigation is under way to determine what caused the outage, but we have already ruled out any possibility of a cyberattack.”

He said regular payments were made overnight and thus unaffected.

The Department of Human Services said via MyGov’s Twitter account there were “technical difficulties” with the website.

“We are urgently investigating the issue and we’re working hard to fix this as quickly as possible,” it repeatedly said in replies to people reporting the error.

The Australian Taxation Office also tweeted that “some of our services (incl. the portals & our online services via myGov) are currently unavailable or experiencing slowness”.

A spokesman for Government Services Minister Stuart Robert acknowledged the issue and said the department apologised for the inconvenience.

More than a million people have filed tax returns since the start of July – many more than usual – seeking to take advantage of recently legislated tax cuts.

The Australian Services Union, which covers ATO workers, said that demand combined with a new system for delivering payroll summaries to create a perfect storm.

Stock image.

 

“I don’t mind blaming the tax office when they’ve really not done something right, but, in this case, I think it’s just been everything happening at once,” ASU’s taxation officers’ branch secretary Jeff Lapidos told AAP.

He said the tax office couldn’t have known for certain that parliament would pass the tax cuts in the first week of July, and that ministers would tell everyone to file their returns as soon as possible.

The new single-touch payroll system means most workers have to access the online system to retrieve their payroll summaries for their tax returns this year.

But employers have until the end of July to upload the information, where they used to have to provide summaries to workers within two weeks.

Mr Lapidos said the ATO had been inundated with calls from people trying to work out how to get the information.

“To their credit, what’s happened is they’ve moved a lot of resources into providing additional levels of service – people to respond to all the queries that have been coming in,” he said.

Labor says the outage was a “monumental stuff up” and came after the coalition had hollowed out the public service and replaced permanent workers with contractors.

“The government needs to take responsibility for the fact that after they told everybody to get a tax return in, they completely stuffed it up so that people weren’t able to get their tax return in,” shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers told reporters.

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