Steve Jobs and e-tax

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Once a year I pull out my old windows based computer. I did it today and it is currently installing the 43 windows updates from the last 12 months. It is fitting that I do it on the day that Steve Jobs has passed away.

I use the old computer once a year because of the tax office. E-tax only works on windows. It is the only software I need that does not work on my Apple computers. I could buy the software that allows me to run windows on a Mac, but why bother. Everything else on the Apple computers ‘just works’.

And that was Steve Jobs genius. Under his leadership, Apple made high tech products that were consumer friendly. My road-to-Damascus moment was the Saturday that I pulled my daughter’s new Macbook out of the box to set it up. I had never used an Apple product before and I had set aside all Saturday – which experience told me was the minimum time needed to set up a PC. My family had fled. They had seen me try to set up PCs before!

The Macbook was set up and running in an hour. It didn’t need me to do anything but set it going.

My wife’s conversion was the iPhone. She never could work out how to check her e-mail on the Nokias, Samsungs and numerous others she had in the past. On the iPhone it was all trivially easy. She runs her own business – so the ease of access was (and is) invaluable.

So, farewell Steve Jobs and thank you. Perhaps the Australian Tax Office, as a tribute, can make a Mac version of e-tax available.

12 Responses to "Steve Jobs and e-tax"
  1. Someone (I think it was Bill Shorten) had a bit of a dig at the ATO for not having e-tax available for Mac OS X during the Tax Forum yesterday. 

  2. Now you just have to convince the faculty tech services group to support Macs so we can all enjoy the experience. But wait, then they would have nothing to do…

  3. Rob – I have just ordered my new computers for post-Dean life. iMac and Macbook Pro. IT services have been centralised and Macs now supported.

  4. Its about time they did a web based version.  ANd with a better user interface.  Has to be one of the worst written Delphi programs I’ve seen…

  5. It seems like a screamingly obvious candidate for a crowdsourced approach. We are not talking about a hugely complicated piece of software here – why couldn’t the ATO set up some sort of open and collaborative approach to developing a cross-platform version of e-tax that doesn’t suck?

    Better yet, why not create an open standard for the data which forms an electronic return and open it up to the market to create a range of solutions for various people’s needs? That way, my brain-numbingly simple tax return could be catered to by a simple little tool, but small business owners and people with complex tax affairs could pay for a more sophisticated system which integrated directly into their book-keeping system, automating the process?

    Large government agencies like this are terrible at this sort of thing. That’s not a criticism, it’s just a fact – they are a monopoly service provider and do not do customer-needs focused stuff like this very well. They need to recognise this limitation and work around it, not try to smash through it. 

  6. The last few years I’ve used e-tax at my parents’ place. I’ve thought a web version was long overdue. But as a software developer I know it’s often easier to stick with the devil you know.
    The worst thing was googling for eTax and finding a commercial service that some people may mistake for an ATO offering.

  7. Dylan: I suspect the problem lies in liability for incorrect tax returns caused by buggy software.  At the moment the ATO do sufficient testing that they can offer that the user won’t be held responsible for errors if they answer all the questions completely and truthfully – they couldn’t really do the same with software that they don’t have a hand in.

  8. kme – liability would obviously be a challenge, but these sorts of problems are tractable for an organisation committed to solving them. The real problem is inertia. Tougher problems than this one are solved daily when an organisation is actually committed to finding a fix.

    Liability and risk are great words to throw around within bureaucracies to forestall potentially apple-cart-upsetting innovations. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad people are watching out for risks to Commonwealth revenues that could wind up costing taxpayers large amounts of money. But too often liability is invoked as an escape hatch rather than as a hurdle to be managed and overcome.

  9. Forget about the mac version – it should be standards based and therefore available on ALL platforms (yes – I’m a linux user).

    I can do my banking from any OS via a up-to-date browser.  Why can’t I do likewise for my tax returns?

     

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