Monday, April 14, 2008

tax rant

ABSTRACT

Citibank spends a lot of time imploring their customers to go to all-electronic statements... but they don't improve their electronic statement availability to make them practical. Ohio Dept. of Taxation spends a lot of time imploring people to file electronically... but they can't be bothered to test their forms, or to provide a feedback button so that end users can notify them of errors they find.

This is a bad pattern. If you want people to go electronic, focus on getting it right, not on pro-electronic cheerleading.

* * * * *


Ohio has a "use tax" - a law requiring that you add up all your mail-order and interstate purchases from out of state so you can retroactively pay Ohio sales tax on them with your tax return. I think six or seven of us actually obey this law, and the folks at the bureau of taxation laugh, blow a kazoo, and scrawl "PATSY!" on the return whenever they come across someone who paid it. Oh, well.

Digging up records on all these purchases sucks. Citibank, though I love their customer support*, didn't help. (You can download your last six statements, one at a time... or, after March, you can request a PDF report of the whole last year - please allow two business days for your request to be processed. Excuse me? Some people store information on devices called "computers"? A year of credit card statements is about 50 KB... I think you can afford to keep that on disk. Ask Google if you're hard up, they'll give you a few gigs.)

So anyway... I finally, FINALLY, splice electronic records and sift paper records and total up my internet purchases for the year... open up the Adobe form from tax.ohio.gov... and...

...and the line to enter your quantity of out-of-state purchases is not editable. It is pre-set to zero and locked.

One good thing has come out of tonight: I found wesabe, a really nice site for slurping up records from your various accounts automatically. Next year I won't need to fight Citibank, because my Wesabe account will keep itself updated all year long. Wesabe, I'm happy to say, gets it right. Free services generally do, as opposed to people I pay, who generally get it wrong. It's a strange era we live in.

(* - When my credit card was stolen years ago, Citibank was absolutely wonderful to me. It'll take a lot of blundering to erode the goodwill they earned from me then.)

1 comment:

andy47 said...

Thanks for the pointer to wesabe, it looks really useful. And I can see my evening going out of the window as I realise how much money I've wasted on technology gadgets in the last 12 months ...