I have just spent a very frustrating day trying to complete my tax forms, with success only after much gnashing of teeth.
Here in Canada we have until the end of April to complete our tax returns, unlike our american cousins, who must file by the 15th. If you don’t owe any tax, in principle you don’t have to file at all, though in practice the Canada Revenue Agency, the CRA will ask for a return sooner or later. I’m in that position, so I’m not too concerned about not being able to file, but even so it’s been very aggravating.
In the past I’ve been using QuickTax from Intuit on a Mac, but this year in their corporate wisdom Intuit decided not to sell a standalone version for the Mac, and directed us instead to their web-based tax product. That doesn’t fly for me, so my choices were to try another Mac product, Taxtron for Macintosh, or pick up a copy of a PC based product and either use Virtual PC on a Mac or look for a PC box. While I have access to several PC boxes, I try to avoid them outside of working hours as I find the ergonomics of the OS depressing. So Taxtron got the nod.
I expected by this time that the software would have the bugs worked out. The first sign of trouble was when I installed the software following a fresh download. The version number wasn’t the most recent, so I had to upgrade immediately. I’ll accept that when I buy a CDROM copy of software, but when a downloadable version isn’t the most recent I view that as a sign that support is less than it should be.
I went through the exercise of entering the family tax documents, and was pleased to see that, as expected, everyone’s getting a refund. Except my younger daughter had no income – I’m claiming her tuition, so she has to file – but is getting a refund anyway. Another bad sign, I thought, but I moved on to the print stage.
Oops! Yet another problem – my older daughter didn’t declare the province in which she was self-employed. Except she isn’t self-employed. According to Taxtron, she earned 3.36 in self-employed earnings. Digging through the records, that turned out to be ‘Net Foreign Business Income’ from an income trust – T3 income, by the CRA’s forms. Well, perhaps there’s some obscure rule which makes this self-employed earnings–but I don’t think so.
Set the province and continue trying to print. The software asks where to save the .pdf file it’s about to generate, which seems promising, and a popup window appears, telling me various pages have been printed to the file. Except the file doesn’t exist afterwards. I tried various tricks, including reloading all the Adobe PDF libraries,but eventually I had to admit defeat. This is now 4.30 on the afternoon of the last weekday before the deadline. I call Taxtron tech support, and listen to boring music for a while, and eventually I get asked to leave a number where I can be reached, all done automatically. Two hours later I’m still waiting, and I figure tech support has gone home.
I’m wrong: eventually they do call back, and I’m given a workaround. It seems the Adobe libraries are at fault, and if I move the software to my desktop I will collapse a lengthy file name and the functionality will be restored. I try it, and it works. Great, now I can finish printing, and, if the self-employment income deriving from the T3 form isn’t a show-stopper, I can mail off the return (did I mention I’m not eligible for e-filing?) and wait a few weeks for the folks at CRA to tell me how I did.
So, eventually everything got done, but I’m left with a sour taste in my mouth, and I’m not likely to pick up Taxtron next year unless something major comes along to change my mind. Why was the download version an older version, so I had to upgrade right away? Why was a known problem with the PDF libraries not mentioned in the FAQ? What inell is going on with the net foreign business income from the T3? Why is the software still based in Mac OS 9.2? Why is the interface such a pig? Where is the on-line help (there is some, but it’s meagre and mediocre)? Many questions, no answers — but answers at this point would be irrelevant to me — I’m just too frustrated and angry about this experience to care about them.