To Re-Enable Flash Support, South Africa’s Tax Agency Released Its Own Web Browser

“The South African Revenue Service (SARS) has released this week its own custom web browser,” reports ZDNet, “for the sole purpose of re-enabling Adobe Flash Player support, rather than port its existing website from using Flash to HTML-based web forms.” To prevent the app from continuing to be used in the real-world to the detriment of users and their security, Adobe began blocking Flash content from playing inside the app starting January 12, with the help of a time-bomb mechanism… As SARS tweeted on January 12, the agency was impacted by the time-bomb mechanism, and starting that day, the agency was unable to receive any tax filings via its web portal, where the upload forms were designed as Flash widgets. But despite having a three and a half years heads-up, SARS did not choose to port its Flash widgets to basic HTML & JS forms, a process that any web developer would describe as trivial. Instead, the South African government agency decided to take one of the most mind-blowing decisions in the history of bad IT decisions and release its own web browser.

Released on Monday on the agency’s official website, the new SARS eFiling Browser is a stripped-down version of the Chromium browser that has two features.

The first is to re-enable Flash support. The second is to let users access the SARS eFiling website.

As Chris Peterson, a software engineer at Mozilla, pointed out, the SARS browser only lets users access the official SARS website, which somewhat reduces the risk of users getting their systems infected via Flash exploits while navigating the web. But as others have also pointed out, this does nothing for accessibility, as the browser is only available for Windows users and not for other operating systems such as macOS, Linux, and mobile users, all of which are still unable to file taxes.