ATO Business Portal

The Australian Taxation office offer a "Business Portal" for Australian businesses to be able to interact with the tax office online instead of by mail. To be able to use this portal the business needs to register and obtain a digital certificate that is used for access to the portal.

When you register for access the ATO send you an email within two or three days that contains part of the information that you need to obtain your digital certificate. The email also provides a link so that you can download the software that is needed. A week or so later you will receive two letters by mail - one will be a CD containing the software that you can use to save having to download it, the second contains the rest of the information you need to access the digital certificate.

Once you have the software installed you can then enter the information from the email and letter into the appropriate web page and download your digital certificate. Provided that you actually receive all of these letters and emails then you should have no problem in downloading your digital certificate.

The problem is that at no point in this installation process does the necessary software actually get installed as a plugin into your web browser, it is installed as standalone software. This means that if you have proper security measures installed on your computer that there is no actual way for the web browser to actually access the software. Any attempt to access the business portal just produces a message telling you that the software you just finished installing is not yet installed and offering you a link to download it. Since you have just finished installing the software it would be a waste of time to follow the link and download it again.

Having reached this point I tried to email the ATO technical support email address supplied in the letter to ask for help with resolving this. After two weeks of waiting I had still not received any response to my email. All I can assume therefore is that the only way to get the business portal to work is to disable security on your computer. If this is in fact the only way to gain access then the massive security hole that this presents means that the ATO computer system is almost certain to provide a conduit for viruses and spyware to spread between those computers connected to the portal.

Any security offered by the digital certificate in identifying who you are is by far outweighed by the lack of security of the rest of the system. I have therefore uninstalled all of the supplied software and will continue to communicate with the Australian Taxation office by mail. I recommend that anyone else considering using the business portal do the same.


This article written by Stephen Chapman, Felgall Pty Ltd.

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