Innovation

IRS working on transitioning entire code base from assembler to Java

Programmers have to comb through millions of lines of code to find all code changes necessary under the new US tax law.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • The IRS is trying to change its coding language of choice from assembler to Java.
  • The switch from assembler to Java could give the IRS a larger pool of people who can work with their language, allowing them to make all of the updates they need in light of the new tax law.

As the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is faced with making several updates to its code in light of the new US tax law, the tax governing body is switching all of its code from assembler to Java to ease the process.

While the IRS makes some code revisions each year, this year's is the largest overhaul since the Reagan administration, according to Federal News Radio (FNR). Switching to Java could help the process because it is a more popular language with programmers, and is easier for them to understand.

Assembler is described as "Shakespearean English" in the FNR report, as it has worked for several years, but a decreasing number of programmers can understand and work with it. This talent shortage is making it difficult to adjust the code in time for tax season.

SEE: Job description: Java developer (Tech Pro Research)

The assembler-to-Java transition involves three stages, starting with a translation component, an intermediate stage that holds onto the logic from the initial language, and a data extractor, FNR said.

The transition is currently on hold because the leader of the assembler-to-Java project, Jian Wang, left when his application to stay on the project took too long, FNR said. The former IRS CTO Terry Milholland also left under similar circumstances.

"It's frustrating to see what's possible but not happening," Milholland told FNR, adding they were in the transition process when Wang left.

If the three-part solution becomes public, it could help other companies and agencies transition older languages with few experts remaining to newer languages understood by many programmers. It could also help encourage the switch to languages that are better suited for online use, aiding in digital transformation efforts.

Also see

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Image: iStockphoto/Natalia Bratslavsky

About Olivia Krauth

Olivia Krauth is a Multiplatform Reporter at TechRepublic.

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