October 21, 2009

the annual tax struggle

I just used etax to do my Tax Return. Seemed like an easy way to get money back without having to go to an agent to do it. Did you know Australia processes SEVENTY THREE PERCENT of personal tax returns through Agents? Absolutely ridiculous. A result of the over complicated Tax system which seems to be the ongoing legacy of Peter Costello and John Howard's tenure in office.
Don't get me wrong, Tax Agents have their place, and I certainly benefitted from them over the years. But now, I don't need to use one anymore. Using a Dead tree was the first option, but once my daughter scribbled all over it, I figured out I also needed the 'supplement' and I left it so late in the year to do my return, I thought; 'lets try e-tax'
And then the Pain started
Not only does it not work on MacOSX, but it neither works on Linux or in Parallels running Windows on Mac. Way to support a large percentage of the population likely to do their tax online, ATO.
Once I got a Windows box to run the software,  I quickly realised the ATO was quite concerned about users security...ironic, anyone?
Once I got going, it was relatively easy - my details are pretty basic these days. But I PITY anyone who has even moderately complicated affairs.
Then I hit the 'Occupation' page. Which you MUST fill out. There was a rather lengthy list and it was filterable, reasonably so. But my Occupation wasn't there. I mean, there was 'Hansard Clerk' and 'Brothel Owner', but NOT Product Manager? What's that all about? And to add insult to injury, their is no option to manually enter a value. Software Development 101 failed, methinks. Though they probably have some rationale business rule for the lists behaving this way.
Instead I chose some random entry. That'll teach the ATO, screwing up their stats and bringing the average income for 'CEO' down somewhat, I imagine.
Unsurprisingly, they had the issue again if you dropped into any of the Personal Services or Sole Trader type fields. As far as the ATO is concerned, if you don't work at certain roles, you don't work.
In the end I got it all done, and submitted, despite more obscure behaviour around the 'print' function. Positively, they asked for feedback and when asked if I would use the service again, I chose unsure. I then entered a reason and surprisingly enough, there were no restrictions (that I reached at least) in the data entry fields. Following is my response. Perhaps if enough people send a similar response, the suits at the ATO might realise what an absolute beauty they might have here - otherwise, it'll be same old again next year.
Ridiculously you do not support a large minority of Web and Computer Savvy Users. You must realise supporting only Windows is discriminatory to those who choose to use better and MORE SECURE platforms.
The restrictive nature of the occupations listed is inane. My occupation is NOT Listed, and there is NO WAY FOR ME TO ENTER IT.
Both these items, to me, indicate LAZY and 20th Century SW Development Practices (yes I have worked in the Industry for 15 years). I suggest you quickly fix these issues as I have already raised with my local representative. I know of many other who have also experienced this failure to adequately service your customers.
Its a pity I need to respond in this way really, because the idea and the general execution is EXCELLENT and a quick way to reduce the unnecessary reliance on Tax Agents in this country.


  1. Interesting that you couldn't get it to work on Parallels on a Mac cos that's what I have done for the last two years and it worked fine for me, using Windows XP. Previously I've used it with Virtual PC on a non-Intel Mac. But it's still insane that they don;t support Mac. This year I claimed the cost of buying Windows and Parallels as a "cost of managing my tax affairs" cos that's all I use it for.

    I've used eTax for about the last 7 years and every year I plead with them (via the feedback) to support Mac. Never a peep from them. It's outrageously discriminatory. And it can't be that hard really. Bloody Neanderthals

  2. Hi Dirk, I'll try again with Parallels, but it certinaly rejected during the install. Either way, the fact the ATO are happy to take my Tax dollars and use it to prop up support for the most insecure desktop computing system makes me mad. I've given my feedback, but judging by your comment, it appears they have no qualms in continuing this behaviour. I'm really concerned about their development practices.