Australian Taxation Office has spent AU$45m on E-tax

Exclusive: Figures provided to ZDNet show that the ATO has spent over AU$45 million working on E-tax across Windows, Mac, Linux, mobile, and web platforms.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

The Australian Taxation Office's (ATO) E-tax software has cost Australian taxpayers over AU$45 million to develop and maintain since 2006, according to figures released exclusively to ZDNet.

Up until this year, the E-tax software that allows Australian taxpayers to fill out their tax returns has only been available on Windows. Due to changes with tax law, and the inevitable operating system changes, the software is updated every year just in time for tax returns to be filed after June 30.

Following the news that the ATO would have E-tax ready for Mac for the first time this year, ZDNet sought the total cost of the software since its inception.

On Thursday, the ATO told ZDNet that the total money spent planning, developing, maintaining, and updating the E-tax software for Windows to 2013 has been AU$39,157,214.

The office revealed it has so far spent AU$4,705, 930 on the planning and development of E-tax for Mac.

Last year, Steven Hamilton, the ATO's first assistant commissioner for enterprise applications, explained to ZDNet that the E-tax software was ready for Mac last year, but the ATO decided to delay the launch because the XE2 platform was new and security was still an outstanding issue to address.

"We needed to make sure we have a very secure channel for taxpayers to lodge their data across the internet to us. Blackbox [security] technology is available, we currently use it for the Windows platform, but because it was new to the Macintosh XE2 platform, we just had to move through some of those concerns with our third-party providers," he said.

"Those concerns have largely been addressed now, and we're working on the secure code elements now, the download, so that that can't be hacked at the front end."

Prior to this year, Mac users who wanted to submit their returns via E-tax would either have to find a Windows machine, or use software such as Parallels to run Windows inside OS X. The ATO made the software tax deductible as a result.

Although the software is not available on any other platforms yet, the ATO has been considering developing a web-based E-tax platform that would remove the need to make individual software packages for each operating system. This is in the early stages, but the ATO told ZDNet that it has already spent AU$1,806,047 on looking at developing E-tax for other platforms, including Linux, mobile, and for the web.

Melbourne-based IT company DWS has been the main partner for the ATO in delivering E-tax, and has received a significant portion of the money for E-tax. Capgemini has also received over AU$200,000 to conduct a feasibility study for the E-tax for Mac proposal.

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