Tax Commissioner: E-tax doesn't make tax less taxing

After announcing that 1.9 million Australians lodged their tax in 2007 using e-tax, the Tax Commissioner has said that online initiatives can only go so far to ease the burden of an overly complex tax system.

Despite revealing recently that 1.9 million Australians lodged their tax online last year, the Tax Commissioner has said that Web initiatives can only go so far in easing the burden of an overly complex system.

Tax Commissioner Michael D'Ascenzo Credit: Australian Tax Office

Speaking at the Australasian Tax Teachers Association Conference, Tax Commissioner Michael D'Ascenzo said that the "pre-filling" initiative -- the process by which third-party information such as pension and education payments is automatically inserted into a user's electronic tax return to then be verified -- would be expanded as part of the 2008 tax software package.

Despite his optimism over the increased use of the online package, D'Ascenzo was critical of Australia's tax system, telling the conference: "Our current system which includes deductions for work related expenses, tax offsets, and optional systems and choices limits the potential efficiency of pre-filling initiatives."

D'Ascenzo also revealed that the ATO has spent over AU$40 million in a series of upgrades to its online tax agent portal, including new security features and downloadable payment slips.

"We are also making further progress on security arrangements for the tax agent portal. We are transitioning PIN and password users to public key infrastructure which allows tax agents to securely send and receive a greater range of information online," he said.

Despite what the Commissioner described as "good feedback" on the upgrades, the ATO has yet to see the desired uptake on its business portal.

"The take up of the business portal has been well below potential. We are looking at how we can increase the attractiveness of the portal to business through the services available, making the security process easier and leveraging off our new small business assistance program," D'Ascenzo continued.

The Tax Commissioner also announced that his agency will be continuing its work to make e-tax systems compatible with non-Windows operating systems such as Mac OS and Linux this year, with a provisional target of 2009 for an expanded compatibility of the package.