Hi tax people! This is why you can’t put it all online!

The computer said no. It didn’t like my 14KATA. It was meh. We tried again. Meh meh again, said the computer, in incredibly convoluted Hungarian.

While I did my world-famous imitation of a very cowardly jellyfish having a nervous breakdown, Dora tried to find out why. Ah, she said. It’s the name.

So here am I at 9.10 on Monday morning, back in the horribly crowded waiting room of Erd tax office (or NAV which means Nemzeti Ado es Vam hivatal which means National Tax and Customs. I told Dora about HMRC which means Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and Dora thought that was very sweet.) We’re settling in for the long haul because there are at least 20 people already grimly waiting, many of them, guess what, with 14KATA forms which can only be filed online.

I’m here because somebody spelled my middle name wrong. By one letter. Where there should be an R, there isn’t. Deirdre became Deidre at some point in the form’s journey. They did it, not me. I filled in the form correctly and have the copy to prove it.

This is what has sodded up my attempts to be a good citizen and file my 14KATA form because the names don’t match.

Personally I don’t care that a Magyar, bewildered by a legendary Irish name, left out an R. Think what might have happened if I’d been called Siobhean, for instance? The personal tax number, the KATA tax number all match up, it’s just that pesky R. But the computer cares deeply about the R and won’t have it not matching.

So I’m waiting to replace the stray R.

**

We wait an hour and a half and then we go into the inner sanctum and a very nice young woman has me sign several forms, agrees the tax card is wrong (by an R) as well and says it’s now sorted. You can go home and file on line, she adds, it’s all working fine now.

Dora is too smart for that malarkey. No, she says, surely we can file it here now. We’ve brought the printed out form (with the R).

So we did. And I just got an email (in convoluted Hungarian) which agrees that I did that thing. It’s filed. Thank god.

And that, tax people, is why you can’t put everything online and then fire everybody except the chief executive and his minions. Humans are messy. Rs go wandering. Life happens. You still need humans – and enough of them.

When we left the waiting room was even more crowded.

Hello Taxpeople! Here’s a nice idea for you.

Very few things make me anxious – but two of them are anything new involving computers and anything at all to do with tax.
So you can imagine how delighted I was when the Hungarian tax people told me I had to fill in my Hungarian tax statement for 2014 online. It was only available online. There was no way of doing it offline, on paper for instance. No. Shiny stylish computers only.
We logged onto the general tax site which took a lot of doing because the tax people had sent me an email with a link in it and I’d parked the email in my keeper file and forgotten about it. Why? Well it was in very very complicated Hungarian bureaucratese which made my brain go numb at the first word, so I missed the sentence in the middle of it all which said it was only valid for five days.
So we got to the right page to change the password and made obeisance to the computer gods and got another link and put in a password which the computer didn’t like because not enough numbers and we did it again and finally got into the bloody system.
Now we needed the 14KATA form. Hokay.
We typed 14KATA into the search box and hit enter.
Computer had never heard of it. Variations? Nope. Look through the dozens of menus and submenus. Nope.
As I write this, there are small business people all over Hungary, searching desperately for this form because they can’t afford an accountant and, like me, they have suddenly realised they only have a week to the deadline for filing the thing. All over Hungary, people are peering at computer screens and wishing and wishing they could find the 14KATA form, somehow, somewhere. Some of them are probably in tears.
Yes, we rang them. After the usual rigmarole with the computerised switchboard, we got through to a human. It’s on the .gov website not the tax website. Of course. Why would it be on the tax website when it’s a tax form? How silly of us!
My friend has now sent me out of her office because she can’t cope with bureaucratese and the computer as well as having me sitting there vibrating and dry handwashing over the bloody form. When I left she had found 14KATA through three different submenus, though she had to install a specially wonderful automatic formfiller first.
Ladies and gentlemen of tax authorities everywhere. I have some wise words for any of you who bother to read this. So pay attention.
You need to make tax paying very EASY and SIMPLE. Why? So people will do it and you will get their money. Just because you have a PhD in Informatics, Taxation Obfuscation & Complexification, doesn’t mean they do.
EASY and SIMPLE.
So, for instance, when you can predict that lots of people, without a PhD in the above, will be wanting to file their tax statement, you make the form available under the search box as 14KATA. No, you can’t have fun playing with nesting submenus. Every search box anywhere in the system needs to be able to lead to the 14KATA page. That’s all.
Nice boring little link: searchbox – 14KATA – form.
That’s just to start with. I haven’t even got to the form itself yet.
Luckily my friend Dora is not only fluent in English but is a very good administrator and extremely patient. I don’t know where she’s got to on the actual form. I’m afraid to ask.
That’s all for the moment, tax people. Just think about it. We have to pay tax if we want to live in a civilized society because it costs money to supply one. One of the reasons why Americans live in a less civilized society than most of Europe is because they mostly believe that only suckers pay tax. One of the reasons why Scandinavians live in a more civilized society than most of Europe is because they seem to accept the need to pay tax.
But get this, taxpeople. It may be news to you, but nobody actually likes paying tax. And most people regard the time they spend dealing with tax forms, stupid government websites and madly complex bureaucratese in any language as an additional and very unwelcome tax on their time, on top of the tax they pay in money.
So make it SIMPLE and EASY.
Unless of course you’re relying on the fines for late filing to pay the wages of the taxpeople.
But that would be silly. Wouldn’t it?

What a nice surprise – thank you, easyjet!

I’m going over to the UK for a couple of days because my mother seems to be recovering from Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.
Yes, I know that’s impossible. That’s why I want to see her for myself. Apparently she’s talking, she’s alert, she’s eating, she was explaining the difference between a magistrate and a judge to one of the staff at the nursing home, she even read something.
When I saw her at Christmas she was unresponsive, only seemed able to make strange wailing sounds, had gone down to 37 kilos despite the constant efforts of the staff to feed her up and spent most of the day I was with her, fast asleep. So I’m going to see for myself.
So I booked a flight with easyJet at only half the cost of exactly the same thing from B.A., hit the button after checking very carefully and only checked the boarding passes they sent me because I always have to check.
Good thing I did. Instead of a lightening trip of two days (2nd to 4th February), I’d managed to book myself a nice extended holiday from 2nd February to the 4th of March. How, I don’t know. Fat fingers? I didn’t spot it before because the 4th of March is also a Wednesday.
Aargh! I said (and other things). I banged off an email to easyJet, then found the button that lets you change flights and did that thing at the cost of 35 GBP.
It wasn’t quite as expensive as B.A. but still a fair bit more. I tried to be philosophical about it, but failed as usual. Would it be paranoid, I asked my Facebook friends, to wonder if easyJet set the thing to make that sort of mistake.
Yes, it would, said one of them. Don’t be daft, she didn’t say because she has heard of Tact.
And the next day, it turned out she was right.
This is the email I got from easyJet customer services.

Dear Patricia,
I can see you made a genuine mistake with your booking and made the changes yourself online then let us know shortly after making the booking.
As a goodwill gesture I’ve refunded the 35 GBP change fee… You’ll expect to receive this in the next 5-7 working days.
Thanks for choosing easyJet. I wish you a pleasant flight to London Gatwick on the 2nd February.
Kind regards,
James.

Wow! To say I was gobsmacked doesn’t quite convey how smacked my gob was. A discount airline? Being nice?
Wow! RyanAir, eat your heart out.
So thank you very much, easyJet.