Australian Tax Office (ATO) Chief Information Officer Bill Gibson says he is confident that by this time next year, Mac users will be able to download and use the e-Tax application that has previously only been compatible with Windows operating systems.
“Right now have in our labs a version that is about 80 per cent functional but with a number of deficiencies – for a Mac platform,” he told Intermedium.
Approximately 8 per cent of visitors to the ATO website use Mac-based operating systems, and 80 per cent use Windows-based operating systems.
Earlier this year a feasibility study into the project conducted by Capgemini warned against rushing into the deployment of a compatible platform that wasn’t yet perfect just to make the 2012 tax deadline.
“It is a real balancing act,” said Gibson.
“We have to maintain that balance between something that is usable and appropriately secure versus something that everybody wants but is insecure.
“We will not deploy into production any application that has known and serious problems. We are the guardians of the tax payer’s personal identification and financial information, so the integrity of our products is paramount,” he said.
The ATO and e-Tax developers DWS Advanced Solutions have had to overcome a number of challenges to get a Mac-compatible version of e-Tax to where it is today.
“The key concern around security is the encryption that is required between the downloadable part of e-Tax and the connection back to the Tax Office, to make sure that the transmission of data that relates to people’s identity and tax affairs is maintained in a secure manner,” said First Assistant Commissioner, Enterprise Applications Steven Hamilton.
Accessibility functions for the vision impaired also had to be implemented into the new product, in accordance with Federal Government requirements.
Hamilton said an updated version of the Delphi platform in which e-Tax has been developed, which allows for deployment across both Windows and Mac operating systems, offered the best opportunity to increase the compatibility of the application since its release more than a decade ago in 1999. Its release meant that e-Tax could be developed for Mac operating systems without the need to rebuild it from scratch.
DWS has developed the e-Tax application and its annual updates since 2007 under a contract with the ATO worth $32.2 million to 30 June 2012. Gibson advised that a two-year extension to the contract has been signed in recent months, a value for which should become available via AusTender soon.
He declined to disclose a value for the e-Tax for Mac project budget, but said that it would be funded from savings generated elsewhere in the department.
A date has yet to be set, but Gibson said that in the long term he hoped that the ATO would be able to offer a web-based e-Tax application that would be operating system agnostic as well as providing tailored access for mobile devices.
“That is where we want to be. It also means that from a security perspective there are some things that we can do more effectively that we can today.”