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Computer Foul-up Breaks Canadian Tax Filing System

samzenpus posted more than 7 years ago | from the great-white-mix-up dept.

Bug 129

CokeJunky writes "During a weekend maintenance window, the Canada Revenue Agency (Fills the same role as the IRS south of the border) experienced data corruption issues in the tax databases. As a precaution, they have disabled all electronic filling services, and paper based returns will be stacking up in the mail room, as returns cannot be filed at all until the problem is fixed. Apparently on Monday they discovered tax fillings submitted electronically where the social insurance number, and the date of birth were swapped."

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BALLSTICLES (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18273160)

888888

They need a thorough audit of their systems. (5, Funny)

oSand (880494) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273162)

... it's only fair

Re:They need a thorough audit of their systems. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18273634)

Incompetence.

It was a change?
Who approved it?
Was it tested?
What was the prepared back-out plan?
Why does the master recovery procedure not work like clockwork?
Qualification: Most databases are already corrupt/have issues, but not showstoppers

I'll make a guess.
1) ETL in there.(Note recovery using ETL is mostly unworkable)
2) There was no production mirror test environment - test environment and data is a sorry joke.
3) Contractors doing the data conversion
4) Database design, edit checks missing
5) Foreign composite keys adding to woes of misery
6) Testing carried out by same contractors with no external walk through/review

As usual, there will be no lessons learned. The usual excuse - prod system is too complex, and too hard to set up a real test environment.

The final prediction: This is ok, we had a risk management strategy - yadda yadda, while threating to take secaters to the culprits fingers after they have have done their one year extension to fix the issues.

Data Types (4, Insightful)

truckaxle (883149) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273170)

"Apparently on Monday they discovered tax fillings submitted electronically where the social insurance number, and the date of birth were swapped."

Sounds like a serious upfront data validation issue.

However, those two fields should be of a different types and the insert should fail.

Re:Data Types (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273194)

Yes, you are very right. You can bet this is an IT project that will end up in another /. story about IT projects gone wrong. It might be of interest to know that they are not the only group with problems lately? Rogers wireless also has problems. I paid a phone bill (from the US) and when I looked to ensure the payment was registered, it displayed July 3rd as the payment date rather than March 7th. I didn't type in the date value either, it was entered for me.

It might be coincidence, but seems like data validation is not a big deal in Canada?

Re:Data Types (1)

sethstorm (512897) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273786)

Consider that the date was in a different format as well? All they'd have to do there is see when the change was made that flipped those dates and correct them.

Re:Data Types (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 7 years ago | (#18274174)

Looks like a date format issue - US vs... well, pretty much everywhere else. You'd be surprised how many people will store a date as a string in the external representation. I even saw it once including the punctuation.

Re:Data Types (2, Informative)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275510)

There is major problems going from strings to dates. The system settings on windows affect all dates even when programming in .Net. So if you have one server set up with mm/dd/yyyy, and another set up as dd/mm/yyyy and convert a string to a date, you get different results. Myself, I always push for dates in the ISO standard format YYYY-MM-DD, which actually makes sense, as the units go from largest to smallest, and it makes the dates easily sortable. I've never understood either of the dd/mm/yy or mm/dd/yy formats. I always get them mixed up. Maybe i'll start writing time as mm:ss:hh and see if people can actually figure that one out.

Re:Data Types (1)

danomac (1032160) | more than 7 years ago | (#18277872)

The thing that the article doesn't mention is if it's the client-side programs preparing the returns are at fault or not.

All programs have to prepare a *.tax return IIRC, and I'm sure there must be a spec paper released on it. Even the off-the-shelf programs for do-it-yourself people have this functionality. So what happens if one popular program doesn't prepare this *.tax file correctly? It's no excuse for them not checking the data before inserting it in their database, but wouldn't it be interesting to know that Tax Program X is the cause for the grief?

Re:Data Types (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 7 years ago | (#18278026)

It could be worse than that. What if the Canadian government is outsourcing the data processing to a private company, and Application Service Provider (ASP) of sorts that collects the tax data, pre-processes it and pushes it off to the tax collection agency for final processing. This sort of thing can/is done for billing systems regularly. If the fault is outside the government, _and_ outside the country the problem will become even more interesting.

Re:Data Types (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273276)

I see you're not familiar with MySQL.

Re:Data Types (2, Funny)

Teddy Beartuzzi (727169) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273560)

Data types? In my day, all we had was text fields.

Re:Data Types (4, Funny)

Bloke down the pub (861787) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273870)

Text? Luxury!
We had to convert it to hex in our heads and enter it on paper tape.

Re:Data Types (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18275322)

That's nothing! One time I lost my data when I had to fend off a bear attack by beating it with my abacus along the uphill (both ways) path to school!

Re:Data Types (1)

slashbob22 (918040) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276156)

I guess you should have had your abacus in a RAIBeads configuration.

Re:Data Types (1)

PhotoGuy (189467) | more than 7 years ago | (#18278396)

Text? Luxury!
We had to convert it to hex in our heads and enter it on paper tape.


Offtopic, but it reminds me of one of my first coding jobs. Most young'un's today don't believe it, but it was programming Z-80 *machine* language by hand, on an APL interpreter that was about 32K in size. Using an assembler was way too much overhead, and slowed us down too much. If we wanted to compare the 'A' register against the value 128, well that was "FE 80" (it's sad that these codes are still in my head, 20 years later). If the edits we were making to a chunk of code were bigger than the old one, we had to find space, which often involved moving a chunk of code to an unused block, searching for all calls to that routine and manually changing the call to them. It actually worked surprisingly well.

Although ironically, I still look back upon that was simple times.

Re:Data Types (3, Interesting)

Zapraki (737378) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273690)

I totally agree. If any kind of robust data validation was going on, this should have failed on insert.

Social insurance numbers are always 9 digits, and can be validated by the Luhn Algorithm [wikipedia.org] .

A date of birth wouldn't be 9 digits by any scheme I can think of, especially formatted as 3 groups of 3 digits, and only a very, very few of them wouldn pass a check of this algorithm.

Re:Data Types (2, Interesting)

Bloke down the pub (861787) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273952)

A date of birth wouldn't be 9 digits by any scheme I can think of
Maybe they use the date of birth as a a natural key (or part of one) and the extra digit is in case more than one person is born on the same day. Implausible, right? It would be a "solution" to this [worsethanfailure.com] .

Validation means nothing (2, Insightful)

camperdave (969942) | more than 7 years ago | (#18274618)

Just because you've validated the data doesn't mean that you can't store it in the wrong field in the database, especially if both fields are numeric. An 8 digit date will fit into a 9 digit SIN field, and a SIN will fit into a date field if it's one of those "number of seconds since some arbitrary point in time" kind of date fields. However, it sounds from the article that there may be a little more wrong than two swapped fields.

I just hope they get it sorted out before I'm ready to file. I don't want to fill out a paper form. This is the 21st Century after all. Besides, I wouldn't even know where to get a paper form.

Re:Validation means nothing (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18275498)

I don't want to fill out a paper form. This is the 21st Century after all. Besides, I wouldn't even know where to get a paper form.

Jesus fucking christ. Are you that dependent on internet access that you can't think for yourself? Go to the Post Office and get a paper form. Or go to a tax office and get a paper form.

But they aren't processing paper forms at the moment.

Where To Get The Paper Form (2, Interesting)

Petersko (564140) | more than 7 years ago | (#18278466)

"I just hope they get it sorted out before I'm ready to file. I don't want to fill out a paper form. This is the 21st Century after all. Besides, I wouldn't even know where to get a paper form."

If you don't want to download it from here [cra-arc.gc.ca] , then pick up a package at any post office. They've been there every year for at least twenty one years (and probably much longer). You must be very young, new to Canada, or both.

Re:Data Types (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 7 years ago | (#18278600)

"Social insurance numbers are always 9 digits..."

While I was doing some research...(I could have sworn that some SS #'s had been issued that were more than 9 digits to foreign nationals on loan to the US military branches)..I came across something interesting.

Apparently you can get out of paying (and collecting) SS and medicare benefits as a US citizen by filling out this form [irs.gov] .

Now...all I gotta do is find some of these religions...maybe start my own congregation!! At least you'd know all the members have extra money to tithe now...

:-)

Re:Data Types (1)

EddyPearson (901263) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273748)

"Apparently on Monday they discovered tax fillings submitted electronically where the social insurance number, and the date of birth were swapped."

Sounds like a serious upfront data validation issue.

However, those two fields should be of a different types and the insert should fail.
This belongs on http://www.thedailywtf.com/ [thedailywtf.com] (Now worsethanfailure.com). Its depressing how much stuff on there originates from govenment contracts.

Re:Data Types (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 7 years ago | (#18274144)

However, those two fields should be of a different types and the insert should fail.
Contract Programmer: But, they're both strings!?

Re:Data Types (2, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 7 years ago | (#18274190)

Contract Programmer
You appear to have misspelled 'Indian'.

Re:Data Types (2, Funny)

Sj0 (472011) | more than 7 years ago | (#18274706)

What would some Cree fellow have to do with it?

Re:Data Types (1)

dadragon (177695) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275814)

I'm sure he meant Indians from India, not Indians from Saskatchewan.

Re:Data Types (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18276400)

Holy fuckin' whoosh, Batman!

Re:Data Types (1)

canuck57 (662392) | more than 7 years ago | (#18274886)

Sounds like a serious upfront data validation issue.

However, those two fields should be of a different types and the insert should fail.

You would think so. But it is likely a mainframe DB, not SQL and government after all. They probably like enterprise IT figured it worked because it seemed to work.

But scary that our data is so poorly validated. Proves the mess they are really in.

Re:Data Types (1)

ergo98 (9391) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276508)

Sounds like a serious upfront data validation issue.

However, those two fields should be of a different types and the insert should fail.

We have no idea where in the process this field-swap observation was made. It could very well have been in a middleware service, perhaps doing some transformations on some XML, and might have been discovered because the validation was failing.

Some shit when awry with a giant system, and some spokesperson gave some general answer that's probably percolated up, in a completely changed form, sourced from some developer desperately trying to cover his error.

It's hardly the first time this has happened, and I doubt it'll be the last.

sweet (1)

User 956 (568564) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273176)

Apparently on Monday they discovered tax fillings submitted electronically where the social insurance number, and the date of birth were swapped.

In other words, feel free to write off whatever the hell you want this year, because you officially have plasible deniability.

Plausible deniability (1)

sshore (50665) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273382)

In other words, feel free to write off whatever the hell you want this year, because you officially have plausible deniability.

Not quite, according to their update [cra-arc.gc.ca] :

  • If you have already filed your income tax return electronically, the CRA will be able to determine whether the filing of your return was affected by this problem.

(I know, the post was supposed to be funny)

Party... (1)

seyyah (986027) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273190)

Party at my place everyone!
PS. I'm going to write everything off as a business expense.

What was the setup (1)

curious.corn (167387) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273214)

It'd be interesting to know what was the setup that brought to this failure. OS, HW, Application and DB technology involved. I wouldn't want to have the same stuff where I work... ;-)

e

Re:What was the setup (2, Insightful)

Stephen Samuel (106962) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273264)

I would expect that anybody who could generate a foulup of this magnitude could do it on pretty much any combination of OS, HW and DB.

Re:What was the setup (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18273370)

Still - The Taxpayers demand to know.

No forgiveness -Give the people all the details now!

This is pretty serious.

Re:What was the setup (2, Informative)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276368)

Most probably Oracle and MS 2003 servers. The Canadian gov is a total MS and Oracle shop.

Re:What was the setup (1)

randito (159822) | more than 7 years ago | (#18277852)

do you have to ask? The site is ASP.

filings, fillings (1)

MrYotsuya (27522) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273236)

Has anyone noticed that both instances of the word "filings" have been spelt "fillings"? That mercury-laden amalgam is sure to mess things up electronically :p

CCRA (5, Funny)

can56 (698639) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273242)

As a canukian, I have a few comments on this terrible disaster: The CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) was renamed CCRA (Canada Customs and Revenue Agency) years ago. Makes sense to combine the two departments. A joke about strikes in Canada: Air Canada (our national subsidized air-carrier) goes on stike? Who cares, we'll walk. The Canadian postal workers goe on strike? (usually before Christmas). Great! It means Visa won't be able to find us! The Breweries (Moslon, Labatts, ...) go on strike? Holy Crap! Rip the furnace out of the basement to make more room, and send all the vehicles you can muster to the beer store and stock up for the winter.

Re:CCRA (3, Informative)

rebel_cdn (605308) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273270)

Actually, it used to be Revenue Canada. Then they combined it with Canada Customs to form the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA). Then they realized it didn't make much sense, and they were once again separated, so now we have the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

Re:CCRA (1)

can56 (698639) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273352)

I stand corrected. It was once RC, then CCRA, but I missed the change to CRA. But for some strange reason, calls from RC/CCRA/CRA on my phone are still displayed as from CCRA. Can't anyone get these damn computer/phone systems to tell the truth?

Re:CCRA (4, Funny)

Obsi (912791) | more than 7 years ago | (#18274736)

I'll sum this all up as CRAP.
Canadian Revenue Agency Problem.

Re:CCRA (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275552)

Yes, many government agencies rename themselves every 3 years in order to get an extra budget bonus to change all their stuff over to the new name. This includes business cards, websites, and a bunch of other stuff. I worked for one organization that seriously changed names not because they took on any more or less responsibility, but just because they thought the new name sounded better and they needed something to do.

Re:CCRA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18273454)

They were the CCRA, now they are the CRA. The customs branch is now part of the Canada Border Services Agency. This happened in December 2003.

You didn't get the memo?

Re:CCRA (1)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 7 years ago | (#18274032)

"As a canukian, I have a few comments on this terrible disaster..."

What terrible disaster? Let's just fix the current mix-up for the incoming data, keep track of which data was tainted, and keep the data input going.

In the meantime, the DBAs will figure out ways in which they can reconstruct the lost data. They may not be able to reconstruct all of it, but with some creative thinking and some careful supervision -- they should be able to reconstruct 99% of it. Just to give one example, they should have access to last year's social insurance numbers, and with some work -- they may be able to correlate last year's tax payers with this year's tax payers. That's just one example of course, and perhaps the description of their problem is inaccurate -- or perhaps I'm misunderstanding what their problem is -- this is actually not technical advice -- I'm just a slash-doter who actually doesn't know what he's talking about -- and I can not be held liable if Canada choses to follow my advice -- even if thus said advice ends up corrupting the rest of their data.. blah... blah... loss in a revenue... blah... blah... complete national embarrassment... blah... blah...

Re:CCRA (2, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275564)

That would require that most of the people working on these systems not to be complete idiots. Having worked in the government sector, and knowing some people who work in different government agencies, I can estimate that about 80% of people working in the government have absolutely no idea what they're doing.

Re:CCRA (2, Funny)

B3ryllium (571199) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275698)

Only 80%?

Pfft, you're very optimistic this morning. ;-)

Re:CCRA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18275994)

Years ago is was Revenue Canada (RC) then it was combined with Canada Customs (CC) and became Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA). The reasoning was that income taxes and customs were both primarily cash generating operations.


That changed with 911 - the overiding focus of customs changed to security and not revenue.


CCRA was thus split into Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA). CBSA being the new security conscious incarnation of Customs.

Re:CCRA (1)

saforrest (184929) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276612)

The CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) was renamed CCRA (Canada Customs and Revenue Agency) years ago.

No, actually Revenue Canada was renamed the CCRA, then in 2003 it was split into the CRA and Border Services, after the Americans kept running stories insisting we were letting in terrorists by the boatload.

A joke about strikes in Canada: Air Canada (our national subsidized air-carrier) goes on stike? Who cares, we'll walk. The Canadian postal workers goe on strike? (usually before Christmas). Great! It means Visa won't be able to find us! The Breweries (Moslon, Labatts, ...) go on strike? Holy Crap! Rip the furnace out of the basement to make more room, and send all the vehicles you can muster to the beer store and stock up for the winter.

Ha ha! It's really cold up here, and we sure do like beer!

I mean, jeez, the stereotypes are true: but why we still find jokes about them funny is beyond me.

What a joke! (2, Funny)

JohnnyOpcode (929170) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273460)

How frickin difficult is it to accept a chunk of data, validate it, and insert it into a database? I bet the guru who pulled off this blunder is f!@#ed for life now!

NEO: So you're Trinity, the one that f!@#ed up the CRA database?

TRINITY: Would you like poutine with your back-bacon sandwich?

Poutine? (2, Funny)

Dareth (47614) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275658)

Would you like poutine

Being a US'ian, I am sure that is some kind of Canadian sexual reference.

Re:Poutine? (2, Informative)

Dorkmaster Flek (1013045) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275828)

Actually, it's a dish consisting of french fried topped with cheese curds and gravy, and quite tasty. Check it out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poutine [wikipedia.org]

Dammit (2, Insightful)

webax (1034218) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273606)

F*$#. I just filed my taxes last Friday with this system. I just checked their web page, thank goodness they have an information bulletin that the system is down for maintenance with absolutely no information about whether my return was affected or not.

I'm sure I'll get a nasty call a couple years from now, with a few thousand dollars in fines attached. They will attempt to convince me it was my fault taht they screwed up my information. How do I know this because I've spent the last 4 years trying to clean up the confusion when they swapped my social insurance number with someone else who happens to have the exact same name.

CRA: "You lied, and put someone else's social insurance number down on your employment record."
me: "Mmmmhmmm, I went and found someone out there with the exact same name, stole their SIN number, and filed a tax returns with that number FOR THREE YEARS just to see if you'd catch me."
CRA: "You're lucky we are only applying financial charges for the trouble."
me: "I claimed every penny I made and I paid full tax on it, and you still want more money?"
CRA: "That is because you provided false identification."
me: "Even though you (apparently) had no record of me being employed anywhere, you audited me every year and approved my tax returns. Now FIVE years after the initial mistake you realize I owe you MORE money?"
CRA: "Our records show that you provided false identification."

Although its nearly impossible to deal with these people, the story does have a happy ending. The government eventually paid me back all of the extra money they had taken from me, no interest mind you, but it's better than nothing. I still find it mind boggling that they audited me every year for three years, and it took them five years to admit that they mixed up their data.

So yes, I expect a call in a few years.

At least I know everyone in the first world probably has to deal with a similar taxation system, that's some comfort. I think I'm really starting to support the fair tax idea...

Re:Dammit (1)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273640)

Actually even if you sue, you will not get interest, because tax refunds will not carry refunds for the same reason CRR of a bank with the Central bank does not earn interest.
For the inefficient Govt., its interest-free money.

Re:Dammit (1)

GreenEnvy22 (1046790) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275256)

I had a fun one too a couple years ago. I submitted my return as normal, and was getting a big return, a couple grand (was in college). A year after I got my cheque, I get a letter from the CCRA saying I owe $900. Apparently the T1 I submitted, and the T1 my employer sent the CCRA, did not match. I talked to work about it and they confirmed there was a screw up the year before and a couple months were not reported on the T1. Of course my employer refused any help in the matter, and I did owe the money as the T1 work sent was the correct one, but it was still a pain to have to come up with that on the spot. Lesson learned, always compare your pay stubs to your T1, as I am sure most of you do anyway.

Computers not perfect news at 11 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18273614)

Well gee, computer programs are made by people and have faults and computers sometimes break and screw up. News at 11pm.

But we can totally rely on an unverifiable election poll counted by computer. Totally, no need to make it verifiable independent of the computers doing the counting.

Queue targeted phishing... (2, Funny)

Statecraftsman (718862) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273644)

How long before phishers setup a mirror or three of the Canadian IRS and begin collecting SSNs and birthdates? They'll have the data in the right columns I'm sure. The grammar and spelling on the other hand...

Re:Queue targeted phishing... (1)

MochaMan (30021) | more than 7 years ago | (#18274132)

s/Canadian IRS/Revenue Canada/
s/SSN/SIN/ :P

Bad computer! BAD! (2, Insightful)

waynemcdougall (631415) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273840)

Computer Foul-up Breaks Canadian Tax Filing System

How long must we put up with these computers fouling up our systems? We've been taxing people for hundreds of years with no problems worth mentioning [wikipedia.org] .

Bring back trustworthy, reliable humans and we will have no more of these computer foul-ups.

Do they use MySQL? (1)

adnonsense (826530) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273902)

I ask because MySQL is notorious for silently accepting data that shouldn't otherwise "fit" into a column. In the case of an SSN being inserted into a date field, it would probably just set the date to "0000-00-00" without the slightest complaint.

Re:Do they use MySQL? (1)

duffer_01 (184844) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275802)

I am pretty sure they use Oracle as most of the Canadian Government has standardized on that DB.

Re:Do they use MySQL? (1)

nostriluu (138310) | more than 7 years ago | (#18277048)

I don't think they can really standardize - or would want to. I was involved in a project with Foreign Affairs a few years ago where we used MySQL. At that time a big worm - Slammer - hit MS SQL and we watched all the online services go offline one after another because they all had a vulnerable setup. Ours, of course, was fine.

Re:Do they use MySQL? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18275954)

Americans might think of Canada as a third world country, but I very much doubt their tax service is using MySQL for their database. MySQL might be getting better, but we're talking about the tax database for an entire first world country of tens of millions of individuals. This sort of thing gets bid on and outsourced to the likes of IBM, whose consulting arm pushes their DB2 product and mainframes and whatever as a component in an entire "solution". MySQL isn't even considered.

In the future, (1)

wsanders (114993) | more than 7 years ago | (#18278138)

how do you know that there won't be 10,000 months, with 100 days each, or in Europe, the other way 'round?

Forward thinking, I think.

DST patch broke CRA? (4, Interesting)

Adeptus_Luminati (634274) | more than 7 years ago | (#18274056)

According to this reliable source (Canadian Globe and Mail national newspaper), it was a maintenance patch applied on March 4th that broke CRA's (Canada Revenue Agency) website.

Yesterday afternoon, the VP of IT at my company called a 2.5 hour emergency meeting to review our entire DST patch process across all systems to ensure all issues are on track & resolvable - the reason for the emergency meeting? Somebody told him that that CRA glitch was triggered by problematic Microsoft DST (daylight savings time) patches. Our internal MS IT techs confirm, the patches are not exactly simple, or easy to apply and at the last minute some patches have been re-patched or "upgraded" to newer versions, requiring one to uninstall earlier 1.0 patches.

Can anybody site a source that confirms the CRA's glitch was indeed related to DST?

Adeptus

Re:DST patch broke CRA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18275098)

Blame Congress.

election year (1)

mevets (322601) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275196)

More likely the ghost of Mr Wilson...
An 'Old government of Canada' used to defer processing returns until after budget delivery [ especially in election years ] to make its performance look better. A few months later, when the budget had to be restated, nobody was noticing. In 1992 [ Wilsons last kick at the can ] it was billions.
Same tactic, new scapegoat.

Re:DST patch broke CRA? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18276004)

problematic Microsoft DST (daylight savings time) patches AFAIK, it was a DST related patch problem, but not Microsoft's. The CRA's tax systems are not on Microsoft Windows. It's all mainframe and SunOS based. (Disclaimer, I work at a department that has ties with CRA, but not at CRA.)

Re:DST patch broke CRA? (1)

hey (83763) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276264)

> problematic Microsoft DST patch

So they are using Windows - yikes!

Re:DST patch broke CRA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18278596)

They use Windows as their desktop but certainly not to store tax data. This was a mainframe problem.

My guess is that there was a problem with the Netfile system that was inserting data from the web into the mainframe. The Netfile system is a Java system runnning (I believe) on Solaris/Websphere and a CICS connection into the mainframe. The Netfile system goes offline from about Oct-Jan for system upgrades for the new tax year. So I would guess that the system required an updated patch for DST and that caused the error. They won't tend to patch the system while it's live.

I do work for the department but I don't have any details other than what has been made public (not in the mainframe area). I could be total wrong about the above. This is based on my limited understanding of the system they use.

Re:DST patch broke CRA? (1)

anothergene (336420) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276422)

Why on earth are you doing Maintenace patching during the busiest part of the tax season? All these systems should be DO NOT TOUCH till the filing deadline at least.

Re:DST patch broke CRA? (1)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | more than 7 years ago | (#18277432)

Yeah, we had a Charlie Foxtrot on a Windows 2003 server here. It was the DST patch.

When I saw that CRA had a "glitch" on the same weekend as the IT guys here applied the DST patch, I thought, "Well now, that's either an amazing coincidence or I'll be reading about it on /."

It is unlikely that CRA will say the problem was the patch, even if it was.

The question is, "Will we save more energy switching the DST than we consume by switching the DST?"

Whoever thought of... (1)

dragonquest (1003473) | more than 7 years ago | (#18274142)

...paperless office. Neat concept eh!

obligatry (1)

Mipoti Gusundar (1028156) | more than 7 years ago | (#18274888)

CRA? Surely is being CRAA?

Unit Trusts (1)

mulhollandj (807571) | more than 7 years ago | (#18274984)

I used to work for a brokerage and had to deal with Canadian unit trusts, similar to mutual funds. The way they reported tax info was by submitting a excel file. They often submitted multiple files with conflicting information, it was largely in the wrong format ( which was not validated by the Canadians ), and had conflicting internal information. And they wonder why they have problems. Needless to say, I was shocked with how poorly it was run.

Should be easy enough to fix... (1)

Panaqqa (927615) | more than 7 years ago | (#18274994)

The Canadian Social Insurance Number (SIN) is nine digits long, with the last digit being a check digit (uses IBM's old "12" system). Last time I checked, full dates were eight digits (well, at least for the next 7,992 years they are). Should be an easy matter to flag the corrupted records.

Re:Should be easy enough to fix... (1)

Nos. (179609) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275612)

From what I've read and heard on the news, the issue isn't fixing the corruption, that was fairly simple. The issue is finding out HOW those records got corrupted and fixing that, so it doesn't happen again.

A Big Return This Year? (1)

Rob Cypher (1023527) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275008)

Does this mean that I'm going to get a huge return this year? :)

Re:A Big Return This Year? (1)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 7 years ago | (#18277598)

That depends on if their computers also swapped the fields for "amount you owe" and "amount of refund".

DST Patches? (2, Interesting)

rohar (253766) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275100)

Revenue Canada has been saying that there is a mess up in data parsing of the .TAX text file. It seems a little coincidental that we patched all of our servers for the DST changes on the same weekend as Revenue Canada did "maintenance".

Does it seem reasonable that I.T. at Revenue Canada would apply code changes at this time unless they were forced to? Generally, the system is only used for a few months of the year. What they are saying doesn't make much sense from the I.T. Operations point of view.

We have change freezes during any busy periods.

Of course, this statement could be influenced by my large refund that was already filed being put on hold and my distaste for tying H.A. systems into Windows boxes. _grin_

Re:DST Patches? (1)

rohar (253766) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275126)

Woops.

I didn't see the previous comments on DST pathes due to having my threshold turned up. Kudos to the earlier poster and whoever modded them up

The CRA's IT Department (3, Interesting)

Tastycat (1003898) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275300)

My mother works for the CRA, so I hear stories all the time about how they try to do things improperly.

A recent story is about the problems they're having with the change in the DST date.

Essentially, because the CRA is still on Windows 2000 systems they have to patch it themselves. So they write the fix, and then they instruct the accountants to leave their computers on and unsecured at the end of the day so that the IT guys can update their computers. Which means that anyone walking by could potentially have very easy access to any of the information about anyone in the Canadian Tax system, and it would be blamed on the individual whose computer they were using.

On top of that, the IT guys got about a third of the way through these updates before they realized that their patch was flawed and now they've decided to fix the problem with the following three measures:
1) Have people set their appointments an hour off, so as to counteract the time change.
2) When emails are sent they are now requited to post times as EST or EDT. My mother had a woman comment to her, "Like I know what time zone I'm in."
3) Upgrade to XP when they can get a deal from M$ for a cheap enough price.

The DOT is worrying over Vista, and the CRA can't set the clocks on 2000. Sometimes I get worried about things up here.

Re:The CRA's IT Department (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18277040)

I happen to work at CRA in the IT department and there are several things you should know....

Yes, we still run Windows 2000 and indeed Office 2000. The reason CRA has not moved to XP is because CRA is waiting for Vista to stabilise and for Longhorn to be released (for common patches, "stability(for what that is worth)" etc) EVEN THOUGH CRA/CBSA has an enterprise licensing structure and XP is the same cost as 2000 per license, we are not ready for it yet. We run *hundreds* of applications for both CRA and CBSA and each of these need to be certified for use on the networks to ensure stability of the system, which, despite the beaurocracy, works surprisingly well....

PC's and laptops have indeed been asked to be left on so that the patch can be downloaded. We "push" the patch to the computer and no, they are secure because they are not logged onto the system AND the screensaver kicks in after 3 minutes of inactivity, and locks the machine. No logon credentials, no access to any system. Period. If the user was dumb enough to leave their computer logged on and they left it, they deserve to be chastised.

The issue with the computer systems is not Windows 2000 related. The problem with the DST patches is that it has knocked out some of our older Exchange servers. PC's and file servers are unaffected.

The problem that has been in the news lately is related to the MAINFRAME, which is certianly not Windows but some form of *nix. The problem resulted from updates for the current tax filing system and their related databases, and the problem has already been identified and is being resolved as we speak...No information has been lost that is already in the system...

Cheers!

CCRA Messing with their systems at tax time (3, Insightful)

landoltjp (676315) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275382)

I can certainly understand why the systems administrators want to keep the CCRA machines in the best state. However, messing with them at this particular time is rather ... well, let's go with skull-crushingly stupid.

Returns from across the country are going to be coming in. hundreds of thousands of returns will come through the online submission systems. Those machines should've been frozen at Christmas. The Bank that I used to work at had a freeze on their, c machines right near (or after) Christmas in preparation for the onslaught of transactions related to RRSP (US-401K) season).ulminating the lat week of February.

I'm not sure when the DST patches came out for the affected machines, but it seems that they would've been more intellegent about when they were applied.

Plus, no fail-over plan? No back up services? (or were they patched at the same time?) no roll-back? Uhm, naw, we'll just shut 'em down. Yes that works. I mean, who would mind?

Thank the vendors and Bush for the DST mess (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18275452)

I would like to thank all the vendors that still have not released their DST patches and the Bush governement.

The computer did not "foul up" ANYTHING (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275594)

It did precisely what the analysts and coders told it to do.

But a headline like "Programmer Foul-up Breaks Canadian Tax Filing System" wouldn't be very newsworthy.

A headline like "Programmer Gets Canadian Tax Filing System Just Right" would be newsworthy. And astonishing.

Re:The computer did not "foul up" ANYTHING (1)

radarsat1 (786772) | more than 7 years ago | (#18277740)

Sure, the programmers may have messed up the patch some how, but the IT guys installed it on production without proper testing. During a period of heavy system use. Both are at fault, but moreso the latter.

What I want to know is, how does this affect me if I haven't filed my taxes yet?
Should I do it now, or wait a few weeks?

Directions? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18275610)

"(Fills the same role as the IRS south of the border)"

Oops, let me turn this map around...

Sure am glad... (1)

!Xabbu (1769) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275708)

...that I got my T4 early and filed my taxes a couple weeks ago.. even got my return last week. :D

Re:Sure am glad... (1)

whitehatlurker (867714) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275848)

Good for you. Spend it quickly ;-)

I'm wondering - does this foul-up mean that there will be an extension on the filing deadline?

Re:Sure am glad... (1)

Clived (106409) | more than 7 years ago | (#18278068)

I efiled my daughter's return on Feb 18, put her bank account number in so they could shoot the $$ right into her bank account. Two days ago, she received a cheque (they ignored our direct deposit instructions) and I said to myself - "Something sure as hell is screwed up over there"

Daily WTF (1)

GreatRedShark (880833) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275784)

In a few weeks, I bet we see a very interesting posting at The Daily WTF about "John Smith" who worked at the tax agency of "an unspecified industrialized nation"...

Not A Computer Foul Up (1)

Grashnak (1003791) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276342)

I wish people would stop saying things like "The computer screwed up", or "A computer error lost my file". These are people errors - the poor computer is innocent. At some point some carbon based life form gave the computer erroneous instructions, and it was "only following orders".

South of the border? (1)

Improv (2467) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276382)

Does that mean that Canada taxes Mexicans? That explains everything!

How can they tell? (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276438)

But my birthday really is 123-456-789! It's about time they fixed their discriminatory calendar restriction!

So I'm impressed (1)

billcopc (196330) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276952)

I'm actually impressed this sort of crap doesn't happen more often with the hordes of code imbeciles that have flooded the market in the last decade, a lot of them ending up in government roles or other big businesses, anywhere a lousy coder/admin can easily hide among the crowds. They don't hire many good IT staff because, well, it's hard to tell a good coder from a bad one until they've ruined a few of your projects (or pushed them to a level of greatness that brings tears to your eyes - riiiight).

I would have expected something like this to be thoroughly tested long before tax season to iron out the kinks, certainly not something to be done at a time when the rate of incoming reports is steadily increasing.. a few days of downtime could backlog them by several weeks, and every Canadian knows how good the gov't is at working through backlogs :P How will this affect those who are expecting some cash back ? The ones who get money back are usually the ones who need it the most, students and low-income families.

H&R queue (2, Funny)

hey (83763) | more than 7 years ago | (#18277490)

I read that H&R Block is still doing people's returns but just queueing them on their own system.
When CRA is back up H&R will send the backlog. So CRA will get days of traffic in a minute.
What could possibly go wrong with that?
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