Macs, Linux to wait as ATO tenders e-tax

Macs, Linux to wait as ATO tenders e-tax

Summary: The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) last week put the contract to maintain and develop its e-tax system out to market, with indications remaining that Mac OS X and Linux versions of the software are a ways off.


The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) last week put the contract to maintain and develop its e-tax system out to market, with indications remaining that Mac OS X and Linux versions of the software are a ways off.


Doing your tax is hard enough without e-tax incompatibility issues
(Credit: Taxes by Matt Honan, CC2.0)

The selected contractor would need to work on the server infrastructure and client application components of the 2009 e-tax system to result in the 2010 version, which has to be operational by 1 July 2010. The changes will involve including the 2010 system legislative changes which are required by the Tax Office.

Local IT services firm DWS Advanced Business Solutions has held the e-tax contract until now. The company will work together in a transition period with whichever firm wins the e-tax contract up for grabs. DWS CFO Lachlan Armstrong said that the company definitely intended to rebid for the contract.

The software for the e-tax system has been written in a mix of Delphi, VB, C++, C# and VB.NET, with the user application being mainly in Delphi, which the ATO would like to maintain.

The w-tax user application is currently able to be run on computers running Windows 2000 Professional Service Pack 4, XP Service Pack 2 (32 bit) and Vista Service Pack 1 (32 bit).

The tender documents expressed that tweaking the e-tax system so it could be used on alternate operating systems was still on the agenda, however when contacted the tax office, a spokesperson said that getting the system working for non-Windows operating systems was not a mandatory requirement, only "identified as a consideration".

The spokesperson also said that the ATO had not determined which operating systems it hoped to target.

The ATO said in March 2007 that it intended on making the system workable for non-Windows operating systems such as Mac and Linux, promising a trial in 2008 and a new product rollout in 2009. However, the program encountered "significant challenges and complexities", according to the ATO spokesperson, which has meant the trial has been indefinitely delayed.

Topics: Government AU, Government

Suzanne Tindal

About Suzanne Tindal

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for the site.

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  • Wine a must

    I don't care if they make a native version or not. But it would be a very low amount of effort for the ATO to require the software to work within Wine. Then it would be available for all platforms. If they features they want aren't in Wine, then they should contribute them. The vast majority of dll features are in Wine. But it can be just one missing feature that makes the whole thing worthless.
  • eTax - Microsoft ONLY

    Once upon a time - a long time ago - and not far away - there was "GOSIP" - Government Open Systems Interconnection Profile - a MANDATORY requirement for governments to support a LEVEL PLAYING FIELD in all matters related to ICT. What do we now find - TOTAL BIAS! We have our Australian Federal Government - through its vital tax office MANDATING that its citizens buy, use and maintain an information system from one - repeat one - supplier in order to interact with it !!

    Could you imagine the outrage if our Federal Government said that all deliveries to Parliament House were only to be made in Ford manufactured trucks imported from overseas!! Imagine our Feds saying "Sorry GMH, Toyota!! You're OUT !".

    Yes - it is in principle exactly the same.

    Let us hear from Senator Conroy - is this what he supports as our Minister for the "Digital Economy"? Is this the Australian "fair go" way for us who choose to use another "car", such as an Apple product or open source system such as LINUX or BSD? Is this the way to support development and efficient competition in the Australian ICT marketplace? NO!

    Let's get some ICT leadership from Canberra - and this is one case that could give exactly that by developing and offering a genuine open system to all.
  • Wine

    It's so annoying that eTax 2007 worked under wine, but in 2008 I had to spend hours trying to get XP going under a virtual machine.
  • Hours??

    Really?? What are you trying to use? It takes me about 10 minutes to get an XP image up and running!
  • Wrong...

    Actually, your first paragraph couldn't be more wrong. I interact with the Tax Office, ASIC and the ABR through their websites on a daily basis, and not just the front end you would see. We have a thing called the tax agent portal, where we can gather all the tax information we need from our clients, also, the ASIC website allows us to submit all forms and lodgements online, through their website. So basically, you're drawing a conclusion on something based on just a single incident (in this case, one piece of software) when the dozens of other interactions we have with the government are web based.

    In light of what I've just said, I would think that developing a web interface for e-tax would be much better, you only need to support IE and then all the other browsers (which basically render everything the same way) and you'll be done.
  • A joke

    I cannot believe there are 'significant challenges and complexities' to writing a cross-platform app. Did they hire programmers or chimps? Crikey, pick Qt or something similar and you are almost done. If a game, with audio, video, and 3D graphics can work on multiple platforms then why can't a simple GUI app do the same? I can safely say the tax laws and logic do not vary between platforms so that bit is static.
  • ATO, eTax and Microsoft Bias - We Agree - Right...

    Actually we seem to agree.
    My para 1 referred ONLY to a consumer/citizen level product "eTax" that any user may load and use and NOT the systems and facilities made available to professional/business users. Yes - I know about the "Tax Agent Portal", the ASIC and ABR sites, etc. They illustrate the exact point I am making.

    Your para 2 argues the same way as myself - i.e. use "standard", full industry interfaces that are available to all... and that was the basic theme of GOSIP!! That is the RIGHT way to go ... not a restriction of trade as apparently proposed by the ATO, i.e. no LINUX, no MAC systems as per the original ZDNet article.
  • wine on e-tax 2008

    e-tax 2008 worked wine straight off, just double clicked the binary and away we go. Pre-filled everything online too.

    I wonder why kine worked and others didn't?
  • Check your facts

    Actually the portal requires a third party PKI component that is only supported on Windows.

    It is possible to hack it to work on Linux, but requires a fair amount of hoop jumping at the ATO end to be able to even obtain the required components.
  • Microsoft tax on income tax?

    Who cares how long it takes you to pirate XP?

    Each XP installation requires a valid license to be purchased from Microsoft, which in effect means you are paying a Microsoft tax on your income tax, only to pay GST tax on the Microsoft tax.

    It stinks.
  • Sorry...

    Actually...your facts are a bit incorrect, you can use the tax agent portal on windows or mac

    Plus, as you said, with some difficulty, you can get it working on linux too.

    What I'm trying to illustrate is that while one product is locked in with a single system, the government is 'trying' to get their information and submission procedures web based. We use MYOB AE at work, and with the Tax module, we can lodge all our tax returns electronically from within MYOB, so with that you can see that things are relatively interface independent too.

    While the wheels of government turn slowly, they do turn...
  • I guess

    ..there is a reason it's called whine.
  • Wrong mentality.

    "you only need to support IE and then all the other browsers (which basically render everything the same way) and you'll be done"

    No, there is no "IE and then all the other browsers", we have web standards. All the government has to do is adhere to web standards.

    But... we all know that would be far too difficult for Australian public servants.
  • Not good enough.

    "with some difficulty, you can get it working on linux too."

    Not good enough.

    "the government is 'trying' to get their information and submission procedures web based"

    I suppose the government is also "trying" to adhere to open web standards in the same way that Microsoft is "trying" to be interoperable with MS-ODF...
  • Voice of linux users

    Looks ATO do not plan to bring etax to other platforms and "Trying" is not good enough. What Linux , Unix and Mac users can do in reality now to attract policy makers attention and change their situation at list for next version of etax ?
  • petition and campaign to demand platform-neutral eTax

    See my blog for how to access a petition to demand a platform-neutral eTax system:

    Over 500 signatures and building up fast.
  • DWS fails the IT test.

    So DWS ( is the culprit behind eTax being progressively less compatible with WINE, Mac, CrossOver, or Linux. Leave a message and tell them what you think of their "vendor neutrality" and the ease of use of their eTax application.

    For the fallout this company has caused the ATO and the Australian populace, this is one incumbent that does not deserve another dollar of tax payer money.