Saturday, January 26, 2008

Trying to make things too easy

Lets take the tax prep software commercials. Turbotax has this on their website:
Asks Easy Questions
No tax jargon here. Just easy-to-answer, plain-English questions about you, your income and your life. Plus, TurboTax Deluxe, Premier and Home & Business save you time by only asking questions that pertain to your unique tax situation.
I've used such tax software for a few years now. I spent a long time doing it all by hand, because I had a freelance business and other complexity that they didn't address, but for a while now I've been doing the computer based ones. As I am waiting to do the taxes this year, I realized I am accumulating paperwork. That's it. When I have enough, then I'll be ready to fill out the forms. Historically, almost everything that goes into the program is just from those forms. Everyone remembers to send me the right ones, and fills them in right. So, I end up spending a lot of time trying to figure out what "easy" question I need to answer to make sure I fill in the right box for the form I got in the mail. I'd rather have tax prep software that says
What form are you looking at now?
And I type it, or pick from a pulldown of all probable forms. And then I just type in the info in the various boxes. That would seem easy to me. Even if I don't actually know what any of it means. Ask some of those ease guidance questions at the end based on this info if you want. For systems that already have well-entrenched processes, even complex or bad processes, its often best to not buck the trend by trying (probably unsuccessfully in the end) to make things too easy.

1 comment:

John Bossert said...

Never thought of it that way, but now that you mention it. . . the simple questions about stuff as complicated as the tax system could end up causing more confusion. "How much did you earn in 2007" is certainly a simple question, but it's unanswerable. Which of the 11 different earnings numbers from the W2 do you want? You're right, in that it is far simpler to have me specify that I'm looking a W2 (or an I-9 (or whatever) and then ask me what the form says.

I've never used tax software, and I stopped doing my taxes by hand the year I got a real job (1996). I pack all of the info in an envelope and send it to an accountant. Costs about $125.

Ideally, I'd do it myself with tax prep software AND have the accountant do it, and see what the results are. But I'll never want to pay for both the accountant and tax software. So it'll never happen.