The Australian Taxation Office has taken a critical step towards long-awaited support for Linux users of its online services, revealing today it had released a new version of its AUSkey authentication software that supported the minority operating system.
Although they’re a relatively minor proportion of the overall Australian population, those who use Linux or even other forms of Unix and Unix-like operating systems have long complained about the ATO’s lack of support for their choice of platform.
In a statement issued today, the ATO said the AUSkey registration, download and installation process had been successfully tested with Ubuntu 10.04 — not the latest version of Ubuntu, but one release behind — and Firefox 3.6, adding the system may also work with other versions of the software.
“The latest release will assist software developers to integrate AUSkey into their financial and accounting software packages for Linux users,” the agency wrote.
However, it warned that even if Linux users did have an AUSkey, the new functionality may not automatically guarantee Linux-based access to online government services that did accept the authentication method.
AUSkey is a single key authentication service which allows access to government services and is used by many Australian businesses regularly to, for example, submit their business activity statements and other documents to the ATO at the end of each reporting period.
There have been a number of ongoing attempts to help the ATO support Linux systems — not just relating to AUSkey, but also in terms of the company’s e-tax package used by millions of Australians each year to file their tax returns.
For example, in July 2010, Linux Australia president John Ferlito revealed he and others were working on a way for Linux users to link in to the government’s Standard Business Reporting system — which attempts to reduce the reporting burden on business by providing a streamlined approach to meeting reporting requirements of different agencies throughout Australia.
However, as recently as May this year, the ATO stipulated that the 2010 version of the e-tax software would not be compatible with either Linux or Mac operating systems when it launched in the middle of this year. The software is maintained by local IT services company DWS.
The ATO does state on its site that e-tax has been tested successfully on Mac OS X, running in a Parallels or VMware virtualised environment or natively in a Windows install through Boot Camp.
Image credit: Larry Ewing