[Linux-aus] [Osia-discuss] Tax office - Open Source policy

Stuart Guthrie stuart at polonious.com.au
Wed Aug 26 21:19:32 EST 2009

Hi Ron 

Thanks for including the list on this, I think there is a better response than this one on it's way from the committee but this is just my two cents. 

Obviously it would be better for the ATO to use an open and published standard such as ODF (Open Document Format). There are many products that support this standard and it can be read and written on all major operating systems including Linux, OSX, OpenSolaris and Windows. 

Any customer needing access to read/write with the tax office can download at least one implementation of this standard for free from http://www.openoffice.org. 

The issue of long-term viability of the documents is a point that also should be considered. There are numerous articles including this: 


A whole chunk from Aust. Fed Govt National Library: 


Most of the articles from these institutions outline the importance of open, defined standards to make long term storage possible. I would have thought that this would be an important consideration for communications with the tax office. 

Example: How would the ATO go retrieving and reading a document in AMIPRO or WORD PERFECT 2.0 format? Neither I believe had open defined standards. I'm imagining the same problem in 10 years for MS office from the mid-90's. The software would not be around and it would get increasingly hard to read. 

This may not cut it however. The second best (but still bad) compromise is that everyone uses the halfway house of PDF to communicate. In 99.9% of all cases, the communication is one-way and there is not expected to be editing of the document at the other end. PDF is mostly documented and many tools can read/write it's formats. While it's not as good as ODF, it's a sort of 'standard' with many tools able to read/write it. 

I think it's probably an acceptable compromise. For now. 

Finally, the option of just using WORD is unacceptable to low income people unless the government wants to promote software piracy. No person should be forced to break the law because they are required to respond to the ATO using a product that they cannot afford and therefore must steal. Surely an open, free and ubiquitous alternative is preferrable. 



----- "Ron Skeoch" <skeoro at muli.com.au> wrote: 
> Hi all 
> As a member of Tax office SDGC (Software developers Consultative Group). 
> I have been pushing to ensure that all tax office communications 
> (particularly web site and technical documentation) is compliant with W3C 
> Muli are working to ensure that SBR (Standard Business Reporting) 
> is able to be implemented using Open Platforms & tools. 
> There has been a movement to revert to allowing Microsoft word 
> as an allowable communication medium. 
> I have requested this position be reversed. 
> As a result of discussions the Tax office has published a policy, 
> > http://www.ato.gov.au/corporate/content.asp?doc=/content/48886.htm 
> This policy is to be discussed at our next meeting 
> Any thoughts and/or feedback would be gratefully received 
> so I can present a stronger well rounded view. 
> Regards 

Best regards 

Stuart Guthrie 
Polonious Pty Ltd 
(w) http://www.polonious.com.au 
(m) 0403 470 123 
Polonious Support Numbers: 
Sydney: +61-2-9007-9842 
Chicago: +1-312-239-0639 
Fax: +61-2-9475-0843 

This above all: to thine ownself be true, 
And it must follow, as the night the day, 
Thou canst not then be false to any man. 
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