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Saturday, 20 February 2010 16:56

ATO claims good progress on systems upgrade

The Australian Taxation Office says it is making good progress on its biggest systems upgrade in 30 years, but 300,000 delayed tax returns still hang in the balance.

Over the Australia Day long weekend, the ATO began migrating tax records to a brand-new IT system, and warned tax professionals and income earners alike that delays could be expected for up to a month following that changeover. That time period was chosen in order to minimise the impact of the upgrade, since most salary earners have to submit their tax returns by the end of October.

A posting on the ATO site Friday suggested that the process was progressing well. "Over the Australia Day long weekend we successfully completed the monumental task of converting over 27 million tax payer records, 32 million accounts and 282 million forms to the new system," second commissioner of taxation David Butler wrote.

However, the lack of processing on forms submitted during the upgrade period has taken its toll. "Of the approximately 700,000 stockpiled forms we have already processed over 400,000," Butler wrote. "We are on track to have the remaining 300,000 processed by the end of next week and also resume normal processing." If the ATO doesn't meet the deadline, it could potentially owe interest on any refunds which are delayed by more than 30 days.

It's not clear how many tax payers will be impacted by any delays. "Obviously, we need to process the stockpile to know exactly, but based on previous years we anticipate slightly more than half of the returns would generate a refund, with the remainder resulting in a tax bill," Butler wrote.

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