[nSLUG] Taxes and Open Source

Jason Kenney jdkenney at gmail.com
Sun Mar 8 14:31:50 ADT 2009

I think the main point of the thread was that you would need a large
number of people who are very well versed in the tax code working with
your project as well.

It's not that they don't provide a warranty.  It's that you need tax
professionals to make something decent.  Ie, You need some accountants
and some lawyers willing to donate their time (every year to update in
order to stay useful to boot) in order to put out a free product, that
likely conflicts with their own business.

That does seem quite unrealistic.  The fact is the Canadian tax code
is very complicated, and you can buy something like UFile for $30,
which will do 8 returns.  I don't think there is a 'market' at all for
OSS tax preparation software.  If your returns are very simple, you
can get worksheets to do them on pencil and paper from the government
for free.  If they're complicated enough to require a computer to
organize them, who is going to trust some unknown software when the
alternative is at most $30 shared among however many returns you are

If you are serious about starting a project, I'd suggest you give a
read through the Income Tax Act:
http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/ShowFullDoc/cs/I-3.3///en.  (Yes, all of
it).  If that doesn't strike fear in your heart, then you're made of
sterner stuff than I.

The story this guy tells is telling I think:

I understand he'd be frustrated to get an answer like that, but again,
the fact is in order to give income tax advice in a professional
context, you'd need to be a lawyer or a certified accountant I believe
- and those just aren't the kinds of people you can afford to pay to
work on a call centre.


On Sat, Mar 7, 2009 at 11:15 PM, Hatem Nassrat <hnassrat at gmail.com> wrote:
> Its that time of year again and i was wondering if anyone knows of open
> source programs that can safely submit a CRA NetFile.
> The CRA approves of a bunch of applications. Some of them are "freeware"
> with certain restrictions.
>    http://www.netfile.gc.ca/sftwr-eng.html
> I have found the following thread on Slashdot:
>    http://ask.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/03/09/011259
> Which basically says don't bother with open source. I don't agree with
> the opinions expressed in the comments of that thread.
> Some of them state that it is hard to trust open source software with
> the CRA (or US tax) policies that get updated to frequently. Moreover,
> it was expressed that it would be hard to trust OSS with something that
> can send you to jail.
> I guess its due to the claim that OSS does not provide
> "Warranties and Limitation of Liability TO THE MAXIMUM EXTENT
> (http://www.visa.com/globalgateway/legal.jsp#Warranties).
> I still think that OSS wins even in this situation. I can't imagine that
> this doesn't exist, but maybe this will make for a cool project for next
> year ;).
> --
> Hatem Nassrat
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