FSF India's Letter to Finance Minister of Kerala and the Minister's response
Dr. T.M. Thomas Isaac
Hon'ble Minister for Finance
Government of Kerala
We appreciate your efforts to implement the facility for submitting e-returns for Value Added Tax. We believe that this will make it convenient for many traders.
However, there is a small but serious problem that, we are sure, can be taken care of without much difficulty. The problem is that a person who has to submit the returns is forced to use Microsoft Excel, a piece of proprietary software. because the submission is possible only with the help of this piece of software. The person who submits the return has to create a spreadsheet file first, using Microsoft Excel, and then use a macro supplied by the department.
This is a problem in two ways: For one, this leaves the government open to the accusation of promoting one company's product at the cost of others. Those who have to submit returns are forced to purchase this software, if they wish to live without violating the law, or use illegal copies. Secondly, this also leaves the government open to the accusation that it is promoting the use of proprietary software on the one hand while its policy is talking of promoting Free (Swatantra) Software on the other.
This problem can be solved easily by providing macros for other applications like OpenOffice Calc, a Free (as in Freedom) spreadsheet application. An alternative would be to specify a text format that can be prepared using one of several applications and then submitted as such. The Free Software community will help you in this matter, and we can co-ordinate this, if needed.
Hoping for a positive response from your side on this matter,
for Free Software Foundation of India