Updated: ATO yet to budge on Mac, Linux e-tax

Despite being operational for 12 years, the ATO's e-tax software remains incompatible with Apple's operating system and the open source Linux offerings

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) has remained defiant in forcing Australian taxpayers to electronically submit their tax returns through Windows-only software.

A help topic posted on the ATO website attributes the lack of Mac or Linux-based e-tax software to priority focuses on compatibility with tax legislation.

“Only once we have allocated the information technology (IT) resources necessary to achieve this can other enhancements be considered,” the post reads.

Security, privacy, as well as operational compatibility with internal tax systems are also cited as justification for the Windows-only software.

“We understand that some computing platforms will not be compatible with the e-tax software and we apologise for any inconvenience this may cause,” the post reads. “However, we have a responsibility to the entire taxpaying community to balance our limited IT resources so that we can make the necessary changes to update e-tax each income year to accommodate changes to tax legislation.”

A Mac version may be available in future once the department finalises its wide-ranging Change program, an embattled $750 million upgrade of IT systems that has been ongoing since 2004.

For those individuals and companies not on a Microsoft platform, the agency recommends using alternate methods to lodge tax returns, including installing a Mac-based virtual machine which uses a Windows operating system, or dual-booting a Windows system through the Boot Camp utility offered on Intel-based Macs.

Though the e-tax software was first piloted in 1998 and is used by more than 1.9 million users each year, the department has consistently lacked an electronic lodgement system for non-Windows systems, angering some users.

A spokesperson for the ATO wasn’t able to confirm with Computerworld Australia whether the department was looking at alternative, platform-agnostic measures such as web-based tax returns.

"The ATO continues to investigate various technologies for improving the range of online services we offer the public," the spokesperson said. "Our priority is to maximise the opportunities for taxpayers to interact with us online while balancing requirements for security and useability. Our considerations are much broader than our e-tax lodgement channel. We have yet to finally determine whether any future solution would be via a portal for individuals, or through different technology."

The department also fell foul of Linux users during the launch of its AUSKey platform, which provides encrypted software keys to more than 21,000 businesses for using online government businesses. The software required to use the platform is available for Windows and Mac OS X platforms, but not Linux.

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