Student loans vanish from screen after Inland Revenue upgrade

Some taxpayers have seen their student loans seemingly disappear after Inland Revenue’s website came back online on Friday following a technology upgrade.

A former student who now lives in Germany was among those who got a nice, but short-lived, surprise when her $14,000 student loan appeared to vanish.

The woman joked that the upgrade – part of Inland Revenue $1.6 billion Business Transformation programme – was definitely working for her. 

Another remarked on Twitter, “The buggy IRD website wiped my student loan, woohoo! That’s some Mr Robot s…”.

Any hope that the debts might have fallen into a permanent crack in cyberspace when Inland Revenue switched between software systems appears forlorn, however.

Inland Revenue spokesman Baden Campbell confirmed the department was looking into an error that meant some students were seeing “incorrect” student loan balances when they logged on to its myIR website.

But the debts were not forgotten, he made clear.

While some loan balances might not be showing properly on the website’s homepage, “our system is not wiping student loan balances”, Campbell said.

“If the customer clicks into their student loan account in myIR, they will be able to see their balance.”

The technology change at Inland Revenue had been billed by Inland Revenue commissioner Naomi Fergusson one of the largest and riskiest stages of its BT project.

Inland Revenue is switching the systems that manage income tax from aging mainframes and inflexible “spaghetti”-like Cobol software to new technology that should allow faster changes to the tax system and be easier to support.

For the time being, both systems are being run side-by-side to minimise risks. 

Although Inland Revenue’s call centres and website came back online as planned on Friday, the department is not yet declaring victory.   

“It’s still early days but we are pretty happy with progress so far,” Campbell said.

Other taxpayers are reporting some gripes and quirks with the new system, but it is not clear they are widespread.

One accounting firm complained Inland Revenue had inconveniently refunded all positive credit balances during the upgrade, that had been the result of clients making payments under their company IRD number rather than their personal number, or vice versa.

Campbell said it was aware of the issue which was “a matter of how a few people have used the new system rather than a problem with the system itself”.

Last week, one taxpayer complained they could no longer save tax documents from the website in PDF format, while a tax agent reported losing access to some client information that they might now have to reload. 

Another said it was not clear from the limited online feedback the system provided whether the service was working properly, or if they might be sending information “into the ether”.


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