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[ossig] For MyOSS: Electronic Filing of Tax Return in Malaysia

>From Vinnie on the MyOSS Meetup mailing list:


Electronic Filing of Tax Return in Malaysia

Recently read from Newspapers that Malaysian Inland Tax Office plans to
stop mailing out tax forms to all the tax payers to do their tax return,
instead requiring everyone to download the tax filing form and submit
their tax returns electronically (is the term e-filing?).  Apparently
this policy is to be implemented in a year time.

A commentary in Sin Chew Daily indicated that the users of this system
will need to have Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0 and above, as well as
Adobe Reader 7.0.5.  At the same time, in order to use the Mycard with
the 64K chip, devices like a Mycard electronic reader as well as
electronic signature are also involved.  It seems also that, apart from
a decent PC (Windows OS is assumed?), a reasonably good printer plus a
scanner are also required to complete the task.

>From a technological point of view, this plan is certainly a big
challenge to be implemented successfully, judging from the fact that
computer usage, online Internet are still yet to be widely adopted in
this country.  On the other hand, if implemented properly, this plan may
help to spur the computer and online usage in Malaysia.

To open source advocates, this proposal can be considered a blessing, or
a threat?  Or may be it can be both.  Does anyone have any further
information on this?  Any web site or blog to recommend if we want to
know more about this issue?  Or perhaps this plan is still not yet set
in concrete?

>From the open source movement's point of view, if the plan is following
the typical direction as in many countries, namely assuming that
everyone is using Microsoft-only products, and demanding that everyone
use a specific software (i.e. MSIE, Windows OS, or Windows-only client
software), then we have a problem!  A classic story on this type of
practice is the one just happened during the Katrina Disaster in USA,
when the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had required that
all hurricane victims who need to apply for government assistance online
to use Internet Explorer (and by implication, Windows only) and nothing
else!  The already disgraced FEMA had to relent later due to public
uproar, and now all FEMA's public web sites can be accessed without fail
using any web browser in the market.  You may say this should be a
no-brainer approach in the very beginning, but without the proper
knowledge as well as public pressure, sometimes the people responsible
in implementing certain policies tend to take the short-term easy way
out, without understanding its long-term implication to the nation.

>From what I know, Australia has gone the e-tax and e-filing sometime
ago.  The full details I am not very familiar.  I must confess my annual
tax return is done by a tax agent.  In fact most people in Australia
have gone this direction (i.e. filing tax return via accountants or tax
agents), due to the enormous complexity of the Australian tax system.
>From what I know, the open source movement in Australia also faces very
similar problem there concerning the restrictiveness in software usage
in Australia's e-tax or e-filing.  I will get more information when I
get back to Australia next week, and I'll certainly share the info with
you.  We should compare notes on this.  

I suppose the FOSS movement faces this type of dilemma everywhere, all
the time -- governments saying their warm support for FOSS on the one
hand, then implementing policies that cut FOSS out on the other.

Like to hear your opinions on this issue.

Wen Lin

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