Sunday, April 13, 2008

The idiocy of the Mass dept of revenue

The Mass Department of revenue insists that payments of over $5000 with an extension request be paid via the Web. Unfortunately the instructions developed in Automatic Extensions on the Web show that their IT dept has no idea about Web standards.

The form M-4868 that the taxpayer is provided to fill in is not a Web form but a PDF form. But no problem, 'Appropriate browsers are available at no charge from the Microsoft and Netscape Web sites.'

Apparently the IT dept of Mass department of revenue is not aware that Netscape has been defunct for some time and that neither browser has native support for PDF. And even with the reader plugin it is not possible to fill in a form - that requires the expensive paid product ($650).

Of course there might be an online HTML form, but the Mass dept of Revenue does not tell you where it is. The only information provided is:

Filing Your Online Application
  • Use Tab key or mouse pointer to navigate through the form. Do not use the Enter key after typing information – use Tab or place the mouse pointer over the next field in which you wish to enter information.
  • This sort of thing is unfortunately rather common when paper oriented process people try to use the Web. They insist on reifying everything as printable paper forms and ignore the fact that this is not how the Web standards are designed.

    "Online Form M-4868" is not listed on the 'E-File Forms and Publications' page. The form M-4868 itself says "Call (617) 660-2222 to file your extension by telephone or visit to file via the Web or to obtain Form M-4868"

    So the instructions are thus precisely circular. And probably nobody has told the Mass dept of revenue yet because nobody is going to file an extension till the very last minute.

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