April 11, 2004
@#$%&*! Taxes: A Lesson in Usability
TurboTax is a really useful tool, and does much to preserve one's sanity. But it seems unreasonable that the state disc requires you to purchase additional codes if you have to prepare returns for multiple states. Although I shouldn't complain; my sister let me use her discs. (I know, I know, bad Lady C.)
Doing Georgia taxes by hand has been more harrowing than necessary, because the official instructions and the form itself are so ill written. The 500 tax form is for use by full-time, part-time or non-residents of the state. Is it made clear which line items are applicable for full-time residents and which should be skipped by part-time or nonresidents? Ha!
Part-time and nonresidents are supposed to complete Schedule 3, which helps them to determine the amount of taxable Georgia income. There is a reference to this schedule under the general information section of the tax booklet. But on the form itself, there are no instructions or visual cues (i.e., shading or divider lines) to indicate who should complete lines 9-14 (full-time residents) and who should go straight to line 15 (part-time/nonresidents). It's only when you get to line 15 that there's a vague parenthetical reference to the schedule.
There's not a lot of space on the form for additional information, which is why clear instructions about Schedule 3 should have been included in the line-by-line form instructions. Moreover, when I go to the booklet's instruction page about this schedule, there is nothing that tells which lines to skip on the tax form. Just as I'm about to blow a gasket, I see "DO NOT USE LINES 9 THROUGH 14 - PAGES 1 AND 2 FORM 500" - on an example copy of the schedule itself.
WTF? Was this helpful, essential bit of information not important enough to mention anywhere else in the instructions? Once I realized this, finishing the form was mind-numbingly easy, allowing me this time to rant and rave about shitty, needlessly stress-inducing form design.