The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is looking into the possibility of developing a web application for e-tax, even though its current study to port the application to another platform only considers Mac OS X.
The ATO told ZDNet Australia that as part of its forward work plan for its information technology, it had been examining how to support other platforms and increased usability for the community, including the possibility of developing a web application.
If a web application was developed, it could potentially be used on any device that has a web browser and solve the cross-platform problems that have plagued e-tax since its inception.
The government agency did not reveal a time frame for how long discussions had been occurring, or an expected date for any decisions or deliverables, but it did state that security was a particularly important issue.
"One of the major considerations in these investigations is balancing the need for greater usability and our security requirements to ensure taxpayer information is protected — particularly with mobile computing devices," the ATO told ZDNet Australia.
Although the ATO has already engaged consulting firm Capgemini to undertake a study into how feasible it would be to port e-tax to Mac OS X, the ATO told ZDNet Australia that the study will only look at OS X and not any other operating system or web application.
While some have argued that the ATO should have simply created e-tax as a web application from the beginning, it is important to note that the initial development of the e-tax application used today stretches back prior to the use of the web as a platform for applications.
According to the chronological history of the ATO's electronic lodgement initiatives by the Australian National Audit Office, e-tax was first piloted in 1998, the same year that the ATO opened its first website, before it was released nationally in 1999. The ATO has stated that the original e-tax product was commissioned through a competitive tender process and the successful tenderer had developed the code using Delphi. At the time, Delphi would have been a reasonably modern platform to develop from, being in its fourth or fifth release, but at this stage would clearly only support Windows.
Subsequent updates to the e-tax application over the past decade appear not to have focused on cross-platform support, but rather on strengthening the security of the application and enabling the pre-filling of information from banks and other government agencies such as Medicare and Centrelink.