The ATO’s 20-year-old software tool used to retrieve historical tax documents no longer works.
Workaround attempts to manually reconstruct the tax documents from data spread across multiple database tables also failed.
In a six-month period alone, the ATO said 1400 requests for tax returns and assessment notices were “quarantined” because of the technical problems.
The problems have ultimately forced the ATO to stop offering to find tax documents from before 1997, cutting off a key data source used by abuse survivors in their compensation claims.
Lawyers acting for more than 700 victims of abuse have been told they can no longer get access to copies of income tax returns or notices of assessment for 1990-96.
Abuse survivors often need to call on the tax office to source records of historical income, which are important to calculating claims for compensation.
A spokesperson for the ATO told iTnews that “quality, integrity and fullness of the data” is one of the factors it weighs when deciding if it “will retain records longer than we are legally obliged to”.
Another factor the ATO considered is “the resourcing requirements of storing, maintaining and disseminating the data”.
“Depending on the systems used, maintaining historic data can be costly and resource-intensive,” the spokesperson said.
“As a publicly funded organisation, the ATO must be mindful of these costs and weigh them against the level of public interest and demand.”
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