Technology

Tax Office confirms myGov accounts mandatory for electronic tax returns

The Tax Office has confirmed Australians will be required to sign up for online myGov accounts when lodging their tax returns electronically this year.

The news follows comments from the outgoing Information Commissioner suggesting the myGov portal could reignite the controversial ''Australia Card'' debate.

Some of the information accessible via my.gov.au when linking it to Medicare.
Some of the information accessible via my.gov.au when linking it to Medicare. 

The myGov portal allows Australians to link all information stored on them by multiple government agencies to one account that has a single username and password.

The requirement to sign up for myGov accounts for electronic tax returns comes after security experts recently blasted the government for its ''appalling response'' to an independent report that found security holes in the site that allowed any account to be hijacked.

E-health records, including prescription drugs, are also accesible by my.gov.au.
E-health records, including prescription drugs, are also accesible by my.gov.au. 

Security experts last month urged the government to allow users to have the option to use two-factor authentication, which would require a token or code to be entered in addition to a password before access is granted. Such a token, which is used by major banks and online services such as Google and Facebook, would be sent to a user via a physical government-issued device or to a mobile phone.

It was reported last month that people wanting to complete their online tax returns would be required to sign up for myGov, which has about 150,000 of its 2.5 million users accessing it every week. A further 2 million users are expected to register by midyear, with the service expanding to link state, territory and local government services.

''Doing your tax is different this year,'' the update on the Tax Office website says. ''To lodge your tax return online – with either myTax or e-tax – you will need to get a myGov account and link to the ATO. If you already have a myGov account, simply link the ATO as one of your member services.''

E-tax is used by more than 1 million Australians each year, while myTax is a new initiative to move to ''tick and flick'' tax returns, sold as a red tape reduction measure by the federal government.

Child immunisation records are accessible too.
Child immunisation records are accessible too. 

The move to make myGov mandatory follows the release of a National Commission of Audit report earlier this month suggesting myGov be the default way of interacting with government online. The report also recommended online logins be strengthened and biometric information be used.

The myGov site has been around since 2009, but has ramped up its number of partner agencies thanks to a ''digital first'' push, which sees having all communication with the government go digital by 2017.

Centrelink payments are also made available via my.gov.au.
Centrelink payments are also made available via my.gov.au. 

This has Information Commissioner John McMillan concerned that it may reignite the Australia Card debate of 1985. The Hawke government push to issue every citizen with a single identifier was abandoned after a double dissolution election due to the legislation being blocked in the Senate. The Hawke government was returned to power, but without a majority in the Senate to pass the required legislation.

''If the only way of dealing with government is having a certified address through a myGov account, are we really just reigniting an old debate in a new form?'' Mr McMillan said earlier this month at the CeBIT technology conference in Sydney.

''A site like this will increasingly accumulate a valuable storehouse of administrative data about the population, about their health, about their finances, about their transactions.''

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