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Australian Tax Office Adopts Open Source Software

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the updated-fleecing-techniques dept.

Linux Business 167

James Roberts writes "AustralianIT is reporting today that the Australian Tax Office, or ATO (Australian IRS equivalent) has ditched its standard Microsoft SOE and will now adopt the Linux operating system 'where appropriate.' It was reported late last year that the ATO was originally considering Longhorn as its preferred SOE. This is a big step for Australian Federal Government, who have been slow in the uptake of open source policies despite ongoing petitioning by several high profile pressure groups."

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In Soviet Russia . . . (-1, Offtopic)

homeobocks (744469) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370155)

. . . software taxes you!

oh dear (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8370156)

FP

Re:oh dear (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8370166)

Failed...

Re:oh dear (5, Funny)

saramakos (693903) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370257)

I am sorry - this does NOT mean you will get your Tax Return sooner.

Re:oh dear (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8370325)

this does NOT mean you will get your Tax Return sooner

tax return = paperwork you send to the government
tax refund = money you get back from the government for overpayment

Re:oh dear (3, Funny)

askegg (599634) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370857)

Taxelation = The joy of receiving your tax return, which lasts until you realise it was your money to begin with.

"Pressure groups" is such an ugly phrase (3, Funny)

ObviousGuy (578567) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370163)

Why not call them what they are, "non-profit sales teams"?

Here's a funny thought. The government saves money by not paying Microsoft licensing fees. Do they expect to return that windfall back to the tax payers?

Re:"Pressure groups" is such an ugly phrase (4, Funny)

evil_roy (241455) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370214)

Funnier still is that the author considers LUGS high profile.

I don't think there is any such thing as a 'high profile' *UG

Linux Australia (4, Informative)

kazooie (755907) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370613)

While not being terribly high profile, or influential, SLUG have done some work haranguing the ATO. The focus there was on the adoption of Open standards, particularly with regard to their eTax tax return software.

Linux Australia [linux.org.au] , the national Linux body, have been doing a lot more interesting work in the Government space.

Why nobody knows or cares what "*UGs" are (-1)

alex_ant (535895) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370864)

Public: "How do you pronounce that?"

Geek: "It's pronounced, 'asterisk-U-G, or just U-G for short."

"Um, I'll use U-G then... so what does it mean."

"'*UG' is shorthand for referring to a user's group. The asterisk (*) indicates a wildcard expression."

"What is a wildcard expression?"

"A wildcard expression is a symbolic expression used to compare characters or sets of characters. In this case, the asterisk is equivalent to any given string of characters.

"Um... okay..."

"A character is a letter or symbol. Common character encoding methods are ASCII or Unicode."

"What in the hell happened to you to make you get like this?"

"In this case we use an asterisk because there are several different variants of the Unix Operating System, so saying '*nix' would be ambiguous. Also, the name '*nix' is trademarked, so we would like to avoid any legal issues."

"What the fuck is asterisk-nix?"

"I can't tell you, I would have to violate the trademark."

(And with a blood-curdling YELP! the scrawny ponytailed unix fag gets his testicles ripped off by his rightfully pissed off interviewer.)

Yes, No (5, Interesting)

quinkin (601839) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370442)

Who says they are "non-profit(sic) sales teams"? You don't think the Initiative for Software Choice [softwarechoice.org] doesn't get a kickback for scuttling another Open Source bill?

Having friends within the ATO I can tell you with certainty that no savings will be passed on to the public.

That said, we may incur LESS additional budget bloat (a fixture since the introduction of GST and the complete farce of it's implementation).

Q.

Off the shelf or custom? (4, Interesting)

MacFury (659201) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370176)

Just what operations are they moving to open source? Is this the standard day to day operating tasks such as word processing and spreadsheets, or are they writing custom software?

Re:Off the shelf or custom? (0)

djxploit (748198) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370789)

Aussie here: As our government is in such debt i think that this is a great way of shinking the ever rising debt of Australia and ditching MS licence and support by going OS to save money that way. Although alot more is going to be needed to be done from "changing operating systems" maybe 1 fix up the transport system :P that no doubt everyone has heard about recently. And apart from its only going to be used "where suited" what could be more suited than a free fully supported operating system ?

Re:Off the shelf or custom? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8370974)

The Australian budget is in surplus and national debt is not the problem you think it is. Stop being a victim to hype.

As you're a taxpayer, it's nice to see that you're so willing to pick up the tab for this false economy. Running Linux will not prove cheaper than Windows.

SOE what? (1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8370180)

No, I mean wtf is SOE?

Re:SOE what? (5, Informative)

Duc de Montebello (751651) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370228)

Standard Operating Environment

another stupid TLA, meaning a PC running windows...

Re:SOE what? (3, Informative)

Kaotiq (450904) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370324)

Not Necessarily meaning a PC running windoze, its more general than that, even though thats probably the most common one.

I've seen SOE applied to other boxen, including in one case Solaris 8 with a particular set of patches.

Its just a way of saying "This is our standard box".

Re:SOE what? (1)

Trejkaz (615352) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370492)

Not anymore! :-D

Re:SOE what? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8370932)

Sorry, for sme people it means more than that. In the world of IT Service Management, a SOE (aka Configuration Baseline) is a powerful tool to simplify the release management process. Without the concept of configuration baselines, an organisation with 3000 desktops and 200 servers would have potentially 3200 different configurations. Pretty hard to test against, to find the underlying causes of incidents etc. etc. etc.

Many organisations have server SOEs as well as desktop ones.

Re:SOE what? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8370229)

SOE - Standard Operating Environment

Re:SOE what? (1, Redundant)

sparkie (60749) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370237)

Standard Operating Environment, had you read the article, you'd know that.

Re:SOE what? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8370296)

The summary should be self-explanatory. The purpose of a summary is to let you know what the article is about. If the summary doesn't make sense without reading the article, it fails it's purpose. Had you completed high school English, you'd know that.

And btw, that skimmer summary read like something by a crackhead.

In Other News (5, Funny)

wan-fu (746576) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370186)

By using an Anton Pilar act [slashdot.org] , SCO raided ATO offices demanding a AUD$904.32 (USD$699) licensing fee for each CPU.

Re:In Other News (5, Insightful)

rusty0101 (565565) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370414)

Sorry, SCO licences are only available to comercial entities. ATO is anything but comercial. It may be a parasite of comercial entities, as well as individuals, but it is not comercial in nature.

Re:In Other News (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8370479)

Commercial.

Why start in the tax office? (4, Interesting)

seriv (698799) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370192)

Shouldn't the ITs over there start with thing less important then tax records to start with converting computers to Open Source? Don't get me wrong, I am all for a switch anywhere, but why start with such a massive undertaking?

Re:Why start in the tax office? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8370286)

if something big like that can be done, so can the smaller less important things.

it sets a standard, adn a wealth of info to learn from

Re:Why start in the tax office? (5, Informative)

RedPhoenix (124662) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370359)

We have..

* Department of Veterans Affairs: Ditched a bunch of NT4 file servers for a big samba box running on an existing s390 machine.
* Northern Territory Department of Education: Open Source focussed for many years.
* NSW Department of Transport: Moving down the open source (particularly, open-office) path.
* Aust Department of Defence: LOTS of open source here, regardless of lack of any official position om the issue.
* About a dozen other government departments: Using open source security auditing agents (Snare, Snort) to comply with national security requirements.
* ACT open-source legislation will probably mean a heightened open-source focus for the ACT government IT provider, InTACT.
* Several small DB projects in quite a few agencies, using postgres/mysql.
* Websphere (which has a apache backend) being used in a bunch of organisations, including the DVA.
* many more examples...

However, I'm not certain that the ATO are converting just yet, they're just not excluding it any more (ie: Allowing prospective bidders to NOT take into account the current (windows) SOE when developing proposals). I also suspect that the tax records will not be affected by this change - from memory, they're on a bunch of big-iron machines.

Red.

Re:Why start in the tax office? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8370753)

IBM Websphere is not particularly valid point in the context of this article. The idea that deploying a Websphere based Intranet solution is actually cost effective is quite ridiculous to me.

I am, right now, sitting next to a bunch of developers who are battling to get a single part of a Websphere implementation to work, let alone be productive. The current word is that the leader of the team should probably be looking for a new job because of the current budget blow-out.

Sure, apache is no doubt working beautifully behind the scenes here, but from what I've heard that would be the only thing working. IBM have promised us the world, and are now helping us towards fulfilling that promise, without very much success.

Developing an Intranet solution based on Websphere has little to do with what web server its running on, and more to do with the content management tools it provides, how easy it is to have it co-exist and integrate with existing applications, and how clear the business are in defining the requirements.

Luckily, here, management are smart enough to understand that the problems lie with IBM's solution, and not the fact that we're using open-source software

Re:Why start in the tax office? (4, Informative)

iabervon (1971) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370372)

They're already planning a major change. This is not actually a commitment to use any OSS, but rather a decision to evaluate OSS solutions as part of the change. Furthermore, they run relatively little software on their desktops; most of the work is done on their mainframes. So the OSS portion of this is not really a massive undertaking. For that matter, if they start running Linux on their mainframes (side-by-side with what they're currently running), they can start a tighter integration between their mainframe and desktop environment.

Seen this one? FLAG (2, Interesting)

tqft (619476) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370983)

FLAG - Forensic and Log Analysis GUI

Ran across this morning looking for something else

http://www.dsd.gov.au/library/software/flag/inde x. html

You may want to check the source or have someone you trust do so

WOAH THERE (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8370197)

I don't think I'd be comfortable with my personal information in the hands of open source!

Great, Just Great... (4, Funny)

OECD (639690) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370249)

The frickin TAX OFFICE now has a reliable, free, software solution.

I'm going to have to rethink this whole Open Source thing...

Re:Great, Just Great... (1)

femto (459605) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370463)

Hold on a minute while I just write a tax refund to myself into the code.... :-) Only joking! Like any other self respecting free software user, I presume the tax office will buy their software from a source which conducts reliable source code audits.

Where appropriate? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8370198)

...will now adopt the Linux operating system 'where appropriate.'

Where SCO cannot find them?

Re:Where appropriate? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8370225)

Where No Man Has Gone Before

What does SCO stand for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8370812)

Anyone?

Where appropriate (5, Funny)

gid13 (620803) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370206)

As opposed to what they were doing before: adopting it where inappropriate! :)

Seriously though, is it just me or does that wording imply that they've been inappropriately using Windows? Maybe it's good they can admit such a thing.

Re:Where appropriate (4, Insightful)

Crypto Gnome (651401) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370836)

It all depends, if you consider the blanket deployment of a single solution without considering for *how appropriate* that solution is for the many and various expected uses to be "inappropriate" then YES they've been inappropriately using Windows.

All they've said (and this now goes for many Australian Government uses, now) is that OpenSource solutions will now be considered on a case-by-case basis, whereas previously it was "roll out this solution everywhere, without considering other options" (mainly due to Government bulk-buying of off-the-shelf commercial solutions, mostly due to HEAVY lobbying/discounting/campaign contributions?).

Yes, it's true, The Australian Government has made a commitment to officially (and seriously? one hopes) consider the use of OpenSource as opposed to (as previously) considering only mass-market commercial solutions.

Longhorn? (5, Funny)

Espectr0 (577637) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370208)

It was reported late last year that the ATO was originally considering Longhorn as its preferred SOE

What? How can they even consider an OS that won't be released for about 2 years?

Simple. (2, Interesting)

Eric_Cartman_South_P (594330) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370411)

Bullshit marketing from MS. Remember Windows NT? Didn't it START at version 3.5? What happened to Windows NT 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0?

Hitler also followed this numbering scheme. He started numbering his troops at something like 10,000 to make the first recruits think there were many before them.

Re:Simple. (1)

deniable (76198) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370452)

NT started at ~3.1 IIRC. Probably to match up with Windows versions.

Re:Longhorn? (1)

Twister002 (537605) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370487)

2 years, try 6 at the last estimate.

Re:Longhorn? (2, Insightful)

askegg (599634) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370809)

Since when has anything the ATO done made sense?

Open Source is nice... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8370210)

But how about using nothing but Free Software? You could call the suite GNU Money Management or Free Money.

Re:Open Source is nice... (2, Funny)

ReyTFox (676839) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370636)

"Free Money" sounds like a counterfeiting tool to me >.>

Re:Open Source is nice... (5, Funny)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370655)

Just what Australians need, GNU Taxes!

Does this mean... (5, Interesting)

propellor_head (668863) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370220)

Does this mean that in future, e-tax (the software the ATO provides for people to lodge their own personal returns) will run on Linux? At present it only runs on Windows.

Re:Does this mean... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8370368)

I would say no. The article mentions middle-ware applications, not end-user apps.

Re:Does this mean... (1)

Snoopy77 (229731) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370466)

My guess is no. This would not fall under the 'appropriate' column.

Re:Does this mean... (1)

deniable (76198) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370469)

How about all of the electronic lodgement apps comapnies are required to use? I saw a document which basically said we were required to have a copy of IE5 or so running on MS Windows. Is this government support of a monopoly or what?

Re:Does this mean... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8370499)

Just a note that the 2003 version ran just fine using wine.

Re:Does this mean... (1)

Trejkaz (615352) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370501)

I think I'll stick to the web forms...

Nice to see... (3, Interesting)

wildchild978 (458123) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370629)

... that I'm not the only one who's noticed this glaring ommission. I dislike having to reboot into windows for e-tax. I've tried running e-tax under WINE, but had troubles, so unless they want to take e-tax online or port it to java instead of MS Visual Basic or whatever it is they use (the widgets are vaguely familiar but I can't remember where they're from) I would hope that since they're adopting a more open philisophy the openness would flow on to its "end user" applications.

Back to Manual (1)

marko123 (131635) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370885)

I went back to manual filling in for the same reason. Weird, because the software is written in Java.

there is an article (-1, Troll)

Karma Star (549944) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370222)

here, oddly enough, on budweiser's site: http://veepers02.budlight.com/service/RetrieveCard ?id=CC363960-667D-11D8-B62A-B3EE4054966E

MOD PARENT DOWN! (-1, Flamebait)

DaHat (247651) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370348)

This is nothing but a talking version of the old goat.cx or whatever it was.

They still have a ways to go ... (4, Interesting)

calmdude (605711) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370223)

Their web site runs IIS [netcraft.com] .

Re:They still have a ways to go ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8370370)

I know what a bunch of asses.

They announce that they are going to start using OSS before converting all of their current software to OSS.

Re:They still have a ways to go ... (3, Interesting)

calmdude (605711) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370423)

Converting a web server to open source is the first step one should take even before fully considering converting to OSS.

Imagine someone saying, "I want to date 6'5 tall women because someone said good things about them", but they have only dated girls 5'2 and shorter. How likely is it that they will keep the commitment to date 6'5 people?

The only way a company truly converts to OSS is if they have a high-exposure, successful project, and once again, the web site is the best way to accomplish this. Several companies I did work for decided to convert to OSS right after we installed a *nix box running Apache.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step ....

Re:They still have a ways to go ... (2, Insightful)

ciroknight (601098) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370669)

The only question is who on slashdot understands analogies like this:
Imagine someone saying, "I want to date 6'5 tall women because someone said good things about them", but they have only dated girls 5'2 and shorter. How likely is it that they will keep the commitment to date 6'5 people?

Re:They still have a ways to go ... (4, Insightful)

martinX (672498) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370517)

Perhaps they don't run their own web servers. The government department I work for has a significant web presence but the hosting is contracted out to an outside company. In fact, none of the departments of this state government run their own web servers.

$699 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8370224)

Open source? That'll be $699 to mile a letter, mate. Drop it in the kangaroo's pouch.

Re:$699 (-1, Troll)

EverDense (575518) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370403)

You mean a Kangaroo Scrotum Pouch ? [australiagift.com]

$699 American = $904 Australian (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8370641)

HTH

Open Source=save money? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8370233)

You mean that there is free/inexpensive sofware that governments can use? I thought that they needed to pay tons of money for everything. That's just mind-boggling!

Say what? (1)

MrPower (687654) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370255)

Among the Gartner Group's key findings were that the ATO should develop an open-source policy and review procurement processes to better enable the evaluation, selection and sharing of open-source software.

It looks like someone at Gartner is going to get fired when big Billy finds out that theey have broken ranks!

Re:Say what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8370338)

perhaps not, according to the article "Specifically 'not recommended or supported' in the SOE are the GNU/Linux open source operating system and the Mozilla open-source browser."

Re:Say what? (4, Informative)

AstroDrabb (534369) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370733)

perhaps not, according to the article "Specifically 'not recommended or supported' in the SOE are the GNU/Linux open source operating system and the Mozilla open-source browser."
That was the old SOE.

The very first paragraph states:
THE Australian Tax Office will adopt an open-source software policy for the first time, opening its Microsoft-dominated standard operating environment (SOE) to products such as Linux.

Good start but...... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8370265)

yay for the Penguin...

I'd say they'll be hopping into bed with Sun, that Sun Desktop thing (based on RH I beleive?)

Now maybe one day they'll stop bleeding us dry too huh?....one can only dream.. /me grumbles at tax bill

Make it Government Wide (4, Insightful)

sr180 (700526) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370288)

I dont see why they dont do this government wide as China is attempting. The amount of money saved on licensing would hire a lot of staff for support and training. Thus the money previously paid for licensing would be directed into the local IT workforce, creating jobs, producing local IT experience and knowledge that can then boost the local industry instead of watching all our tax money go offshore...

Re:Make it Government Wide (2, Insightful)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370386)

The amount of money saved on licensing would hire a lot of staff for support and training.

But wait...I thought one of the big draws with Linux is ease of administration. 1 Linux guy can admin more systems than a Windows guy. So either the government can reduce the support staff, or keep around redundant people.

The idea of saving money is to actually not spend as much, not hire unneeded people.

We can't have it both ways.

Re:Make it Government Wide (1)

krusadr (679804) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370441)

Oxymoron

So either the government can reduce the support staff, or keep around redundant people.

Re:Make it Government Wide (2, Insightful)

Power Luser (751304) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370598)

I dunno, maybe because it would be an absolutely enormous undertaking that would require hitherto unforseen coordination between every single government department, exposure to a single enormous risk rather than small, controlled experiments, retraining on a massive scale, adoption of a platform that even leading advocates claim is not quite ready for the desktop, and the total absence of proof that any of the things you've just asserted would actually come true on such a large scale?

I dunno about you, but I'd prefer that the government moved in small steps, and got things right in small steps, rather than taking a big risk, fucking it up, and never trying it again. Or is that just me?

Pretty Misleading Slashdot Blurb (5, Informative)

vistas (214241) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370309)

The article did not say they were going to switch from Microsoft to Linux. The gist of it is that they will no longer dismiss open-source solutions out of hand, but will at least give it some consideration.

Re:Pretty Misleading Slashdot Blurb (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8370428)

Even that is an advance on past policy.

Re:Pretty Misleading Slashdot Blurb (4, Insightful)

HillBilly (120575) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370445)

It wouldn't be slashdot without a misleading Linux friendly title and Blurb.

Its the Fox news of the internet.

Probably due to... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8370319)

the hiring of Bill Gibson as CIO, and his review [news.com.au] of all things IT in the ATO.

As a contractor on the ATO account, I for one, welcome our new open-source weilding overlords!

Mind you, Bill did pull a huge tender [news.com.au] recently, so maybe this won't make it through the next month without being reversed.

It's not ATO... (3, Funny)

sashang (608223) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370350)

it's GNU/ATO. In the future please correctly refer to the organization as GNU/ATO.
All your taxes belong to us.

If only Intuit BuickBooks had a Linux port (3, Interesting)

emptybody (12341) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370413)

I would love to use quickbooks but am sick to death of microsoft. Maybe this will help them to see it is a good idea.

I'll believe it when I see it (4, Insightful)

rsilvergun (571051) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370446)

Much as I'd love to see a Gov't move to OSS, I wouldn't be surprised if this turned out to be another bait'n'switch to get Microsoft to give 'em some discounts. What I really want to see is them roll out linux desktops. They might still (why any country in it's right mind would trust a foriegn company with a history of getting away with shady monopolitic practices is beyond me), but I'm not gonna hold my breath.

The comment about mid range stikes me though. XP's a resource hog, but older Windows are insecure as heck. Linux could find itself a nice nitch where people need a secure desktop OS with access to patchs but don't want to buy new hardware.

It can't be a full scale conversion. (5, Interesting)

penpen (145962) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370500)

The Australian Taxation Office is the so entrenched with microsoft products, I doubt that will ever look at moving away from these solutions.

Perhaps the greatest entrenchment is something called the ATO innovation centre. This is where they collaborate at a high level with microsoft, on new products and solutions to what they're working on.

I'm sure I would have heard about news as big as the ATO closing down their innovation centre so one can assume, they aren't even close to getting rid of ms, but are still deep in bed taking a pounding in the wallet.

Other reasons I'm doubtful of the move are custom pieces of software that have been made for the ATO would have to be ported.
I know for a fact that the company I work has over the years written a large number of pieces of software for the ATO using, vb and .net. Now simply the cost of moving over these third party software pieces would make any more away from microsoft extremely difficult.

Re:It can't be a full scale conversion. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8370590)

If you've written code for the ATO, I wouldn't go bragging about it. Their database blows goats.

ATO (4, Interesting)

digitaltraveller (167469) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370510)

In Australia you can file your taxes electronically using a WIN32 application that is terribly written. It consistently estimates your refund/liability incorrectly even with the simplest tax information. For example, a salary-only return with no deductions, no adjustments, etc.

Putting their support for monopolists aside, government incompetence is so 90's. The concept of DETERMINISM needs to be explained to the ATO.

If anything should be deterministic it's the tax code. The refund/liability amount should be perfect to the last penny, in all but the most complex returns.

Even in that situation, the estimated return should be correct, but potentially there may be arguments about the content of the return itself, not the resulting amount.

Re:ATO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8370898)

As someone who has worked on IT issues in the ATO for several years, allow me to say that your concept of deterministic tax law was probably not sullied by having read the Act, and associated legal rulings and administrative rulings. Even just answering the question "is this tax payer the same legal entity as that tax payer" is made delicious by approximately six conflicting ways in which it is defined across the various parts of Australian tax legislation.

Don't forget, the ATO doesn't make the law, it just (tries) to administer it.

And I don't know why you think government incompetence is any more or less in vogue now than at any time in the past (or future). Give me the decade, I'll give you the examples!

Well competence aside, and Microsoft bias aside, if all this does is drive Microsoft's prices down then it is a good thing for the Australian taxpayer.

Quite Significant! (4, Informative)

Antarius (542615) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370562)

This is actually quite a significant development. The ATO doesn't usually adopt "new technologies" for quite some time.

I was amazed when they snuck in fax numbers to allow businesses to submit their BAS (Business Activity Statement - paperwork for the "New Tax System." Is submitted anywhere from Quarterly through to twice-per-fscking-week depending on size of the business).

Because they aren't publicised, here's some of the fax numbers that I've been able to find out:
+61-3-9937-9200
+61-3-9937-9400
+61-8-8228-4399
+61-8-8228-4297

Of course, now I can sit back and watch these fax machines get slashdotted. Not that they don't every day that a BAS/IAS is due anyway! ;-)
"Specifically "not recommended or supported" in the SOE are the GNU/Linux open source operating system and the Mozilla open-source browser."
The non-Linux move comes as no surprise. It's no secret that the current hardware is great for Fragfests (Some of the best Quake players that I knew were ATO employees...)

As to Mozilla? Also no surprise. If their own webpage isn't 100% Mozilla friendly, who'd expect any advances in this field?

Re:Quite Significant! (1)

AstroDrabb (534369) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370772)

Of course, now I can sit back and watch these fax machines get slashdotted. Not that they don't every day that a BAS/IAS is due anyway! ;-) "Specifically "not recommended or supported" in the SOE are the GNU/Linux open source operating system and the Mozilla open-source browser." The non-Linux move comes as no surprise. It's no secret that the current hardware is great for Fragfests (Some of the best Quake players that I knew were ATO employees...)
That was the old SOE. The new SOE would allow Linux, which is in the _very_ first paragraph:
THE Australian Tax Office will adopt an open-source software policy for the first time, opening its Microsoft-dominated standard operating environment (SOE) to products such as Linux.

And with all the money they save... (0, Troll)

Timbotronic (717458) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370585)

...from going open source, they're going to give us all a huge tax cut!

Actually I think Steve Irwin will be voted "Father of the Year" first.

Tax write off (1)

Neo-Rio-101 (700494) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370593)

I can't see the problem with sending boatloads of cash to Microsoft for Windows. I mean, the ATO can just purchase boxes of Windows make a tax write-off. ba dum dum ching...

It's Australian for IP Infringement (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8370622)

Crikey mate, don't forget yer $699 licensing fee, ya cocksmoking poofta!

Article misinterpreted (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8370694)

All this means is the ATO has changed their policy to that non-Microsoft software *MAY* be used where appropriate. This does not mean they are ditching any existing software, just they will be more inclusive in future decision. Hardly newsworthy, I would say!

Similar to an Australian hospital group I once worked for, ATO is so entrenched in Microsoft it is unlikely anything will change in the immediate future. Such organisation have many Linux and open source haters within their IT departments, it is very hard for pro Linux and open source people to have any impact.

CIOs are only interested in the bottom line and this could just be the ATOs attempt at getting a better deal from Microsoft.

Hey MS, SCO, Sun, just one thing to say (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8370696)



Right here [216.239.39.104]

Interesting, but... (3, Interesting)

The Famous Brett Wat (12688) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370713)

So does this mean that e-tax 2004 [ato.gov.au] won't require the use of Windows to lodge your tax return electronically? I do keep a spare Windows machine lying around for use in case of emergency, but I refuse to entrust it with any important financial information, passwords, or things that could facilitate "identity theft", so there's no way I'm going to fill out a tax return on it.

I'm betting that e-tax will be Windows-only again this year, but it's a bet I wouldn't mind losing.

Not Ditched, just the Policy Changed: (4, Informative)

sasha328 (203458) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370714)

The comment is pretty misleading. The ATO had a SOE policy wich explicitly excluded non-Microsoft products. What they are doing now is ditching this part of the SOE policy. In other words, they will still be a Microsoft shop, but in the future, non-Microsoft products have, in theory, and equal footing to be accepted as SOE.
Don't get me wrong. It is a positive move, and hopefully, good will come out of it.

Pushing open source through laws (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8370729)

It is very unfortunate to see that some groups are pressuring the governments to employ open source through political and religious feelings rather than technical merits. This will hurt many programmers who are trying to make a living. I certainly do not support this view. I hope that governments are going to be pressured by software developers not to give into these pressures. Clearly some linux zealots in that government unit is behind this decision. I hope software developers become more aware of this threat and start to act.

Re:Pushing open source through laws (5, Insightful)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370773)

you people haven't a clue. You think linux = programmers not getting paid? idiot, there is nothing stopping the ATO employing programmers to work on OSS for them, if anything it means MORE free money for I.T jobs in general and not sending money down a large over seas corp. hole. good work ATO i hope you can ween yourselfs off MS software altogether.

Sharing Code Already (3, Informative)

marko123 (131635) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370872)

A beautiful thing I heard from the horse's mouth last time I was in Canberra:

The Intellectual Property departments are sharing source code with the Taxation Departments instead of spending tax dollars to rewrite the same functionality (online identification verification using PKI in Java).

Very good to hear already. This makes sense as well.

From The Trenches (5, Informative)

ikeaboy77 (648728) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370928)

Having spent more than my fair share of time (though not as much as some!) working on ATO mid-range systems, I can confirm most of the technical aspects of the article.

Yes, all ATO mid-range systems are developed on the Microsoft platform. Most are recently developed .NET applications to web-enable existing mainframe applications; Others were designed to integrate across agencies via web-services; Others still do little more than send an email.

And yes, the vast, vast majority of core business processing continues to take place on mainframes - tax processing, enforcement, GST, BAS. The data for these systems are all ultimately stored and processed on big iron.

As for the SOE, well, mid-range developers have (you guessed it) an all Microsoft SOE running W2K server (progressively rolling out W2K3), SQL Server 2000, IIS 5, etc, etc, etc. Business users run XP with the usual collection of Office and Outlook, plus a good old mainframe client to connect to those core systems.

Sure, the lip service paid to adopting open source might be encouraging, but I wouldn't hold my breath! The Change Program needs to make these announcements, but much of the technology solutions are already proposed and are only a rubber stamp away from approval.

What? No Foster's? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8370993)

ATO, Australian for robbery.
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