The Australian Taxation Office has been forced to shut down its entire IT system after a sophisticated computer virus resulted in thousands of positive tax returns being submitted in what panicked public servants are describing in colourful words of no more than four letters as “a flood of biblical proportions”.
The ATO was set up in 1910 in order to maintain the tariff regime that protected Australians from suspect foreign food, flavours and high-quality consumer goods.
It was expanded in the 1950s to appropriate funds from hardworking Australians and as early as the 1970s began taxing the gambling industry.
By the late 1990s the ATO was a world leader at inflicting mental anguish on small business owners culminating in the introduction of the Business Activity Statement (BAS) in 2001.
Despite having various mechanisms for taxing business, the ATO was never designed to receive anything more than “token gestures” from large companies and multinationals didn’t have so much as a column in an Excel spreadsheet.
The influx of tax receipts began as a trickle late on Tuesday afternoon but by Thursday “literally trillions” was flowing into the Government’s coffers.
Tax Commissioner, Chris Jordan has told The (un) Australian the Tax Office plans to reimburse the companies concerned as soon as the system can be rebuilt – a process that could take several weeks.
Mystery surrounds the origin of the virus. Online activist group Anonymous has been known to attempt similar feats in the past, but they don’t hold the ATO with any particular affection and would be more likely to hurt businesses without benefiting rich Western nation states.
Whilst terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda, ISIS and the Australian Greens have obvious motives, experts say the first two groups would divert the funds to themselves and the absence of a sanctimonious video message almost certainly rules out the third.
Mr Jordan said that although the amount of money received this week could pay off the national debt; give each pensioner a lump sum payment of $100 000; fund GONSKI, the NDIS and the Parliamentary Gold Pass Scheme for the next 300 years; replace every ordinance, vehicle, aircraft and water-craft in the armed services; rebuild every Australian school and hospital with imported marble and pave all 913 000km of the road network in gold; it would not be sound economic policy to keep the windfall. He said the current system whereby multinational companies voluntarily self-assess and pay an effective rate of 9.8% is “in the national interest”.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and Treasurer Joe Hockey were unable to provide time for an interview due to their preparations for this year’s budget. They did however provide a statement supporting the ATO’s position via smoke signal from the House of Representatives Cigar Lounge.