The Australian Taxation Office(ATO) is suffering from severe e-tax backlogs due to the introduction of a new system with HECS-HELP debt and Centrelink benefit receivers suffering the most, according to an ATO source.
HECS debts are used by a large number of Australians as a way to pay for tertiary studies, such as university degrees. The debts are paid off gradually by former students, depending on their income.
According to the ATO staffer, the system’s problems started in January after the organisation started its biggest ever IT overhaul, which aimed to bring outdated systems and paper operations into line with a single IT system.
Since then, taxpayers have suffered from a series of delays and mishaps with cheques missing from some returns and excessive waits on standard tax returns.
The ATO staffer claimed the number of calls and complaints made to the taxation body had spiked this year and that people with HECS debts and Centrelink benefits were the main sufferers.
Many e-tax users with HECS-HELP debts were experiencing issues, which stretched their return date beyond the initial two-week turnaround period cited by the ATO. The electronic problems meant tax staff were reverting to manual processing for many of the returns.
The delays have inflamed taxpayer anger on popular forums such as Whirlpool. More than 3000 posts have been made in a thread dedicated to tax returns in 2010 with the majority being given the same HECS-HELP excuse by the ATO.
According to an ATO statement, action has been taken on the issue and a system change specifically for this problem has been implemented.
“The recommencement of processing these returns…is planned to recommence on 20 July,” it said.
ARN contacted the ATO for comment, but did not receive a response by time of publication.