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[libreplanet-discuss] free and libre tax software

From: Greg Knittl
Subject: [libreplanet-discuss] free and libre tax software
Date: Fri, 24 Mar 2017 23:59:53 -0400
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I'm interested in writing free and libre income tax software for Canada.

Technically it's a challenge because of the shear quantity of calculations. It has to be easy for different people to add and maintain different pieces of the calculations because there's no chance I can do it all. This all has to mesh together somehow. It would be nice if accountants would pick it up and maintain it so the calculation engine and the data need to be well separated.

Each field requires a description in English and French, a formula, form name, line number, identifier number. It might also include references to the Income Tax Act. Formulae for a field can change depending on the context so the formula language may need to conditional expressions. This is probably more than a text file. Maybe a database, xml, json... just to contain the relevant information.

The calculation engine has to resolve dependencies and process the formulae. It needs to have minimal dependencies so it lasts. It could be written in C, but there is already tsort and bc. Bash could calculate dependencies by replacing variables with shell functions. Libre Office Calc resolves dependencies and processes formulae but how to input the formulae and other data in an automated way?

There needs to be output in a variety of formats: human readable, for electronic submission, suitable for difference operations (comparing against previous years or previous versions to create adjustments)

There are political obstacles that are probably more unique to Canada but it wouldn't surprise me if the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will argue that they don't want to expose the electronic tax submission interface for security reasons.

Are there any other free/libre tax calculation engines out there? I would think the technical challenges are going to be similar around the world. There may be similar political challenges to getting tax authorities to open up their interfaces. It would be very helpful to have examples of other countries where people do use free/libre tax software to submit their returns electronically.



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