Group forms to study tax-related XML standards

The IRS and tax officials from other countries have formed a technical committee to devise an international open standard for exchanging tax data via Extensible Markup Language.

The Tax XML Technical Committee sprang from growing requests to improve methods for countries to exchange tax data electronically, said Gregory Carson, director of electronic tax administration modernization for the IRS' Wage and Investment Operating Division. Carson is serving as interim chairman of the fledgling group.

The technical committee was formed under the auspices of an electronic-business standards consortium, the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards of Billerica, Mass. As interest in XML and related Web-services standards has grown, OASIS has been organizing new committees to meet the demand, including one on e-government standards.

For several years IRS officials have worked with the Federation of Tax Administrators, a group representing revenue officials in the 50 states and several other jurisdictions, and with the electronic data interchange group of the American National Standards Institute, Carson said.

Much of the data IRS exchanges with its foreign counterparts still gets shipped on paper or magnetic media, instead of over networks. In response to that, the IRS invited about 30 participants to a three-day meeting last spring in Williamsburg, Va., Carson said. The meeting encouraged attendees to work toward establishing a formal organization to study data-exchange standards for tax agencies.

The Tax XML Technical Committee attracted about 50 participants, both in person and via teleconference, to its first meeting last week at the XML 2002 conference in Baltimore, Carson said.

The next committee meeting is scheduled for Feb. 12. Members hope to start soliciting comments on a draft schema sometime next spring.

Carson said it's too early to say when the group would be ready to submit formal draft specifications to OASIS. 'It's one of those things where the journey is more important than the destination,' Carson said.

Carson said that he volunteered as the interim chairman mainly because the committee's first meeting was held in Baltimore. He said that he hopes someone from the European Union will become the group's permanent head so that the group is not perceived as a U.S.-dominated effort.

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