ATO to retire e-tax system in reinvention drive

​The ATO is planning to retire its e-tax application by tax time 2016, and broaden the functionality of its newer online myTax return lodgement system as part of its Reinventing the ATO Blueprint released on Thursday.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) will be retiring its legacy e-tax digital tax return lodgement application by tax time 2016, Australia's Commissioner of Taxation Chris Jordan said on Thursday.

In the lead up to the retirement of the ATO's first foray into online tax return lodgement, the agency will be building out the functionality of its newer myTax online tax return lodgement portal, making it more tailored, personalised, and streamlined.

"For tax time 2016, we are planning to have a single myTax product for all individuals, whether they have simple or complex affairs," Jordan said at the Tax Institute's 30th national convention, held in the Gold Coast on Thursday. "All going smoothly by then, e-tax, the veteran of almost 20 tax times and itself a pioneer of electronic lodgement, will be hanging up its e-boots."

The e-tax application, which was launched in 1999, was initially only compatible with Windows, but was then made available for Apple's OS X from 2013.

In 2013, it was revealed in figures released exclusively to ZDNet that the software had cost Australian taxpayers over AU$45 million to develop and maintain since 2006.

The launch in July last year of its replacement digital tax return lodgement system, the myTax portal, was hampered by technical problems, with a number of Australians reporting difficulties in linking their ATO details with their details in the federal government's myGov portal.

However, Jordan said on Thursday that people would be able to use their myGov account to link to the ATO for a number of purposes. These include viewing income tax and activity statement accounts, checking lodgement history and future obligations, managing pay-as-you-go instalments, and accessing ATO mail.

"From this month, myGov users linked to the ATO will start to get mail sent to their myGov inbox -- 3.3 million people have already linked their account," he said.

Jordan also said that from July 2015, people will be able to use the ATO's app to capture tax-related deductions "on the go" for their 2016 tax returns.

"The app will record, classify, and upload work-related deductions data direct to their myTax return in time for Tax Time 2016 -- which means the days of the shoebox full of old receipts are gone," he said.

The retiring of the ATO's old lodgement system and the expansion of its new one are part of its Reinventing the ATO Blueprint, released on Thursday.

"This blueprint describes the kind of experience that Australians expect to have when they deal with the ATO. It will guide everything we do in the coming years," he said. "It has taken almost a year to pull together."

The blueprint foreshadows a number of changes to the ATO's digital infrastructure, including the setting up of the equipment, systems, technology, communications, and software needed to enable people to interact more easily with the ATO digitally.

"Everyone should start to see and feel a change when they deal with the ATO -- whether that is on the phone, in our written correspondence, in person, or online," said Jordan. "In particular, you will see a marked improvement by the middle of the year to our website -- it will be easier to search, navigate, and understand."

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