Finance Your Budget Tax office website crashes under weight of July 1 demand

Tax office website crashes under weight of July 1 demand

tax office crash 2020
The message on the ATO's website on Wednesday. Photo: ATO
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The Australian Tax Office says it is investigating problems with its online systems after a flood of people seeking to lodge tax returns or apply for an early release of superannuation.

Social media was abuzz on Wednesday – the start of the new financial year – with criticism of the tax office, which has urged patience as people seek its services.

“We are investigating this as a priority, and our technicians are working to resolve the issue,” an ATO spokesman said.

For the first time this year, the tax office will allow workers to claim 80 cents in tax deductions for every hour they have worked at home between March 1 and June 30.

The shortcut method was introduced to reflect the millions of Australians who found themselves abruptly barred from heading out to work during the coronavirus lockdowns. It is expected to simplify the returns process for many workers.

July 1 is also the first date for Australians to apply for a second $10,000 early payout from their superannuation – another measure introduced to ease financial hardship in the pandemic.

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, the superannuation regulator, estimated more than $17 billion had been paid out under the coronavirus scheme by June 29. The 2.3 million people who were approved were paid an average of $7492 each.

The Morrison government has said it expected superannuation withdrawals to total $27 billion when both $10,000 COVID-relief payments were included. However, the halfway figure was passed by early June 2020, with three weeks of the previous financial year and all second requests yet to come – suggesting the end figure could be much higher.

Labor frontbencher Stephen Jones said the ATO should have known its systems would be in heavy demand at the end of the financial year.

“They should be designed to cope,” he said.

“People are already stressed and this has real life impacts – a delay in returns for people doing it tough.”

-with AAP