Linux users blast tax office for 'discrimination'

The Linux Users Group has accused the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) of "pandering to software monopolies like Microsoft" because its online GST facilities are not compatible with Linux/Unix-based systems.

Accusing the government of discrimination User group spokesman Ron Skeoch said the ATO has reneged on a written promise to provide its users with the same standards as Microsoft and Macintosh to process electronic Business Activity Statements (BAS).

He said Linux/Unix-based systems account for 25 per cent of the server market in Australia and the ATO has not delivered the same Electronic Commerce Interface (ECI) other systems user's have received in a Linux/Unix format.

A letter of protest about the lack of Linux/Unix ECI was presented to the Minister for IT Senator Richard Alston this week.

"ECI discs in Microsoft format were distributed last year with the promise that Macintosh and Unix versions would follow; they delivered with Macintosh but said that after considering the costs of both developing and maintaining Linux/Unix versions they would not go ahead," Skeoch said.

"We hear all about open skies, open competition and free trade, but when it comes to dealing with the government itself they want to dictate a monopolistic solution.

"This backflip is the thin end of a wedge of discrimation that has enormous implications for the computer industry in Australia and the broader business community."

The real issue, Skeoch said, is to ensure government electronic interfaces are based on true open standards.

A meeting of 60 Linux service providers in Sydney condemned the ATO's decision as "anti-competitive" and "illogical" rejecting the ATO's argument that "too few businesses would utilise Linux/Unix formats".

The ATO was unavailable for comment.

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