Thursday, April 18, 2013

Better Computers, a Better Tax Form Experience

Like many people in the United States, I was working on tax forms when last weekend began. I had to do tax forms for my own personal income taxes and two businesses, along with those of any friends who might ask for help, and I pictured myself spending the whole weekend at the computer in order to meet the deadline, which for me was effectively Sunday night. To my surprise, though, the process went more smoothly than in previous years, and I was finished before the day was over on Saturday.

Sunday morning, as I double-checked to make sure I hadn’t missed any filings, I realized why the taxes had gone so quickly. It was mainly because so few things had gone wrong on the computer. Web sites were fast, well-organized, and most importantly, online. PDF programs rarely failed to save or print filled-in form data, one of the recurring dramas of tax season before now. I didn’t crash any program at any point, not even at that high-suspense moment when, thanks to Congress’s sense of tax fairness, I have to have 15 forms and schedules open at the same time to determine the treatment of a line on Schedule D.

At my desk, it is easy to focus on the improvements in software, but there must have been improvements in hardware also at the data centers. The effect of the more reliable technology is higher productivity for me, as I get the same work done faster than in the past.