Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Public Accounts Committee

2018 Annual Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General and Appropriation Accounts
Vote 9 - Office of the Revenue Commissioners
Chapter 17 - Tax compliance interventions
Chapter 18 - Tax relief on film production

9:00 am

Mr. Niall Cody:

The ROS difficulties on 12 November were one of the first instances of us having those issues. It happened on 12 November, which was the extended deadline for pay and file processes. We were very sorry as we knew the impact it had. It is a big day in the agents' world. Many people were very frustrated that afternoon. We had difficulties on 12 November because of a database server problem that happened at 11.50 a.m. It was identified very quickly and various people worked on solving that problem. Like with every information technology system, people tried what had been done before to fix the problem and the expectation was that it would be fully operational in an hour. Unfortunately, previously tried approaches did not work and the system was effectively operating at partial capacity until approximately 5 p.m. From 9 a.m. to noon on 12 November, 11,000 returns were filed, whereas from noon until 5 p.m., only 2,500 returns were filed. At all times there was a trickle of returns. The system returned to being fully operational at 5 p.m. and from then until midnight, there were 33,000 returns filed.

When we identified the problem and knew we had the solution, we extended the deadline until 6 p.m. or the end of the following working day, which should have been adequate to deal with the expected 60,000 or so returns. Unfortunately, on the morning of 13 November, it transpired that we had missed one element of the non-application of the surcharge to a small category of cases that came through a particular challenge, with 300 of those cases getting notification of a surcharge. We were monitoring what agents were saying and we said there was a problem on one particular "pipe". It was purely human error and it had been missed in the extension of the deadline. We fixed that in what would have been a normal process - we would not have seen it as a big fix - but because it happened when the returns were coming in, it slowed the overall process. One can imagine our response. We said we would just extend the deadline until midnight on the Sunday.

I realise this is not in the chapter but I expected us to be discussing the issue. On the Wednesday we got 17,500 returns and by the end of the week we had 536,769 income tax returns filed through ROS, which is an increase of 6.1% on last year's filing deadline. On the Sunday, there were 4,692 returns filed. I know people pay attention to what I say here and we are really sorry about the disruption we caused people. We had a board meeting on the Thursday to review what happened and although we cannot ever say for definite that we will not have problems in future, we will not have these problems in future.