The ATO denies it lost any data and has explained the impact on taxpayers after its website was down for 2 days

Photo by Allen J. Schaben/LA Times via Getty Images

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has rejected reports that data was lost during a two-day outage that brought down its online systems for two days this week.

Services began to be restored yesterday afternoon, but the Tax Agent Portal remains offline with hopes it will be restored this afternoon. The ATO says other services “will be brought online gradually over the coming days”.

But the office has denied earlier reports that data was lost in the crash saying the petabyte referred to “relates to storage capacity”.

“While we experienced some data corruption, we are in the process of fully restoring this data from back-up. No data has been lost,” it said.

The failure has been blamed on a hardware issue.

Responding to concerns that people who were unable to lodge payments over the last few days would be penalised, the tax office says it will “work with any client to ensure they are not disadvantaged as a result of the outage”.

Here’s the full statement, including some FAQs:

ATO experts and our partners at HPE have continued to work around the clock to bring our core systems back online.

We can confirm that there has been no loss of data. While we experienced some corruption of data, we are in the process of fully restoring this information from back-up.

No taxpayer information has been compromised.

ATO.gov.au has been live since yesterday afternoon. The links from the website to other impacted systems will be restored as these come back online. Our case management systems are back up and running.

We are working towards bringing the Tax Agent Portal back online later today and will confirm when it is functional.

Other services will be brought online gradually over the coming days and we will continue to keep the community informed of our progress.

We will work with any clients to ensure they are not disadvantaged because of the systems issues.

We appreciate everyone’s patience as we have worked through these issues and apologise for any inconvenience.

FAQs

When will systems be back?
Our website and case management systems are back online. The links from the website to other impacted systems will be restored as these come back online. We are working towards bringing the Tax Agent Portal back online later today. Other services will be brought online progressively over the next few days.

Have you lost one petabyte of data?
No. The petabyte of data referred to in media reports relates to storage capacity, which includes not only data but applications and systems as well. This figure does not relate to data impacted by the outages. While we experienced some data corruption, we are in the process of fully restoring this data from back-up. No data has been lost.

Was this caused by a cyberattack or denial of service?
No. The issues were caused by a hardware failure and did not relate to any external factors.

What caused the outage?
We experienced a failure in our storage hardware. Our primary back-up systems, that should have kicked-in immediately, were also affected. We understand this is the first time this problem has been encountered anywhere in the world and we are working with our partners at Hewlett Packard Enterprise to determine the underlying cause. While these investigations are ongoing, we have had to implement alternative recovery procedures that took longer to complete.

I needed to make a payment but have been unable to due to the systems issues. Will I be penalised?
We will work with any client to ensure they are not disadvantaged as a result of the outage.

I’m waiting on my refund and was expecting it for Christmas. Will there be delays?
We will fast-track refunds where we can.

Have ATO staff been sitting idle while these issues have been investigated?
No. Our internal case management systems are back online and staff are able to perform normal duties. Alternative work arrangements were made over the past few days for any staff member who was unable to perform their normal duties due to the outages. Many staff were not directly impacted by the outages and were able to work as normal.

How will you make sure this won’t happen again?
After full restoration, investigations will continue on the cause of the outage to ensure we treat the underlying issue.

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