Monday, January 26, 2009

Why should I be the expert?

Tax prep software, I am told by folks who build it, is an expert system. It knows all about it's domain area, and solves problems for me based on this knowledge, and likely information and outcomes. So why am I the expert? I regularly have no idea, at all, what it's asking me but the assumption seems to be that I understand the jargon perfectly. As 2008 tax paperwork begins trickling in, I start thinking of the great idea I came up with last year. How about I don't fill out forms the way the government, or any tax-expert does, and instead I just gather my documents, and enter those. So, right now, I can go to the TaxCut site and say I got a form. They guide me through obvious choices, and I pick "its from a bank or investment management company" (of course, they offer last year's forms and companies as an option) and tell me it's probably a 1099-INT, then I enter that info. Weeks later, as it determines I have probably got everything entered, it asks to make sure, and then goes through all the questions about if I have any farm income, or am blind, or dead or whatever. But why not look at the actual use case, of everyday folks, frustrated by taxes and the piles of paperwork, and use that to solve problems instead of creating more.

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