The Joy of Tax
A couple of years ago, we had our taxes done by an accountant. Much less stress, sure, but when I saw the bill -- over $800! -- my attitude changed. I figured I could do it myself, and even if I made a couple of errors, it would still be cheaper. Besides, I know plenty about accounting. How hard can it be?
Last year, it wasn't hard. It was a pain, and I was working up to the deadline to complete it, but it was done and I think I did a fair job. But this year, Intuit's Quick Tax has conspired to make my tax filing duty more hellish than it usually is.
I followed their 'Quick Step' process, by which the program asks you the info, you enter it, and it leads you through the whole thing. And if that sounds too good to be true, it is. It was shoddy and clumsy and had me pulling at my hair in frustration. There were many small problems, but let me just give one example.
We bought a new car last year. That means that for one part of the year we could claim a deductable business expense from the use of one vehicle, and for the rest on the other vehicle. There is a form to list the expenses and usage of 'Auto A' and 'Auto B' to allow claim of their respective deductions. Easy! But not so with the capital cost allowance -- how the depreciation of the cars is claimed. For that, the values of the cars are pooled and only the percentage usage of 'Auto A' is applied to the expense. This made no sense to me, so I searched how to enter this correctly. After two hours of fruitless frustration, I just decide to fudge something that is mostly honest, but poorly descibes how the cars were used. Whatever. Good enough. Later, after I finish the entire return, the program sees it way to giving me a 'warning' that the CCA calculator for two cars is somewhat problematic, and that I should just, you know, fudge something. Thanks, guys.
But I was yet to discover the worst. And in fact I didn't find the worst until after I filed my return, because -- even though I had no basis to -- I still had some trust for Quick Tax. My wife's return I went over with a fine-toothed comb, but I figured it could do a no-brainer return like mine without a problem. Nope.
Behold! Quick Tax turns $33K in gross income to $64K in net income!
This was because of a bogus negative deduction -- the result of a bizarre 'overflow' appearing on one of the Quebec schedules. Subtracting a negative is the same as adding a positive, and so now Revenue Canada thinks I earned twice as much as I actually did. It's shocking that such widely used software, based on many versions from previous years would not be able to detect an 'out of range' variable or have basic type checking for calculated values. But after having a test spin of Vista this month, shoddy software doesn't surprise me anymore (but that's another story).
I planned to go through my return this morning after the kids went to school, and I would have found this bug, but Murphy's Law intervened and made both the kids very sick. Max waited until his Mama was gone for a whole two minutes before he threw up all over the floor, his clothes, the bathroom, and the stairs. I just decided to file them because I obviously wasn't going to get any free time, and I didn't want this hanging over me. But now I have something else hanging over me. Revenue Canada (yes! I got through!) advises me that I can't do anything until my notice of assessment arrives. Oh the joy.