Monday, April 08, 2002

DOIN' THE TAXES (There's a larger point in here, I promise!)
This was a ten hour ordeal thanks in part to my stupidity, but also thanks in large part to Turbo Tax working against me.

Our taxes should not be complicated. Since we don't own a home the only real complications should be that we have student loan interest (which we couldn't take a deduction for because our combined income is too high), and that my wife works in Illinois while working in Missourri.

The latter of these complications precluded me from using Turbo Tax's web interface, since that only allows you to file one state return. So off to the store I went to pick up the CD-ROM version.

Brought that home, and to Intuit's credit, I was able to load my web work on to it without much difficulty.

I completed the Illinois return for my wife, and then when I tried to take credit for the Illinois taxes on our Missouri return, it assigned the Illinois income to me , not my wife, since being the narcissist I am, I listed myself first on the tax return.

So, I went back and swtiched our names, SSN's and occupations, but when I finished it told me I had to re-enter our W-2 data, since her W2's wers associated with me and vice versa.

Completed all that, and found that I still had to mail in the Illinois return, since TurboTax only sends in one return. Plus, I had to send in three separate forms to get the rebates I was entitled to by Turbo Tax's efforts to price discriminate between cheapo customers like me who will bother fill out the forms, and others who won't (which should be a profitable strategy, since TurboTax's market is people who don't like filling out forms).

My point? As a software engineer, it really bugs me that a software product makes a task more, rather than less, difficult. All the snags I hit above were directly attributable to the fact that I was using the software for this rather than doing it by hand. If I was doing it by hand, it wouldn't matter how many state forms I filled out, or who I entered first on the forms, I could make it all work out. The software got in my way -- I knew what I wanted to do; the software wouldn't let me.

What does this mean? I guess it means that if your softwaremakes doing a task more difficult, or people using your software can't do things they normally can do without it, you're doing something wrong, and will likely lose customers.
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