Feeling vexed with Income Tax

Latest screen shot
This is what futility looks like.
I have tried to file my income tax several times on both my Macs, but to no avail.
Before I reach the final page, it always lands with an error message.
A few years ago, e-filing was ‘revolutionary’. However, with each passing year the online user base grows, and I really wonder if their server(s) can take the load now. For financial transactions particularly, it is very, very important that nothing crashes.
Surely something can be done. Millions more people visit Amazon.com. Why can their system cope so much better? It’s not like the e-filing website displays lots of images of books, either. I can access my local bank accounts with less problems. If the private sector can do it for their customers, why can’t IRAS?
I examined their code and it was wasteful.
A sample from the main section of a page: <td class="sub_menu_item" colSpan="2"height="21">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;
They used nested tables for their nav bar, as well as extra spaces. Stylesheet classes were used but were very basic. You can tell they don’t really understand the potential of stylesheets because font tags (gasp!) were used too.
Now think: If a few million people logged in within these couple of months, several kilobytes per page could make a difference to the server load.
I do appreciate the fact that most of my tax calculations have already been done for me. They did improve on that aspect. And usability-wise, I can understand what they’re showing me.
But urgh, I hope the team is working on a revamp for next year. They should do something, pronto.
[Update 15/4/05: Wow, almost 700 visits from Mr Brown so far!]


  1. acaseofyou

    hmm, i still can’t get this income tax thing, whats the min income before u have to file tax?if it falls below the min, still have to declare right?

  2. vantan

    I think so… when I first started working I had to file income tax but was relieved to hear that I didn’t have to pay anything.

  3. mrbrown

    Sometimes e-everything does not solve all your problems

    I recall having a conversation with a friend who had to deal with a Government agency determined to take everything online and make everything electronic. Not only that, but to take the existing offline procedures off the menu. When asked

  4. Tomorrow

    Bad Coding

    Venessa said “A few years ago, e-filing was ‘revolutionary’. However, with each passing year the online user base grows, and I really wonder if their server(s) can take the load now. For financial transactions particularly

  5. bj

    Not to mention that it takes the same time where cows finishing eating to get connect and they actually advise you to file at off peak hours – hours where everyone else is sleeping.
    So maybe we should all do e-shopping where everyone else is sleeping? Btw that code looks really like DW generated…

  6. chrischoo

    Yeah you have to file regardless of your income. From what I remember you’ll only be taxed if your income exceeds $20,000 per year. Also, if I’m not mistaken only about 30% of the population actually pays income tax. I think they use all the declarations to calculate their GDP, so even if you don’t need to pay, the amount is important to them because so many others don’t pay income tax either.

  7. Kevin

    I just did my Federal and NY state tax… eFiling is big in the U.S. with applications for Mac like Turbotax making life easier. 🙂
    These are my personal assumptions:
    Having the convenience of the Internet, we as users tend to demand more out of traditional institutions, like the govt, to make better use of it. While Singapore’s eFiling system can definitely be improved (e.g. Mac compatibility!?!), the govt has to take more caution with matters of security and reliability. Such is likely the reason for eFiling being slowly implemented. From the perspective of managing expectations, the govt should not have released such a shoddy service. I believe it was peer pressure that had them open it for use even when it wasn’t ready yet.

  8. vantan

    Hello everyone, thanks for posting your comments. Mr Brown’s post has more reader feedback.
    In Singapore (as with the rest of the world), Mac and Firefox users are still part of the minority, although I think the numbers are growing.
    We can each play a part. As a member of the public, write in and ask for change. If you’re working for an organisation which provides a public service, tell your colleagues and management of the latest developments in the industry, and make compliance part of your requirements. Some still refer to ‘Netscape’ when it’s really Firefox that’s second in line to IE now.
    I’ve decided that for all new web projects I manage, everything must work in Firefox. It gets our vendors scratching their heads sometimes, but that makes them learn how to code using common standards and not proprietary scripts. And that’s good for them and for our users.
    As for security and reliability, I seldom find the two going together hand in hand. After numerous passwords and timeouts, I’ve equated ‘security’ with the word ‘slow’. It’s certainly hard to get the best of both worlds.

  9. Seth

    You are right with how CSS wasn’t used. It should have been used more. Though it is extremely unlikely that the additional few kilobytes of HTML code made the server crumble under the load.
    The inefficiencies occur below that, in the PSi layer of the system.

  10. andrea

    I tried to file my taxes several times to no avail, too. I wrote in and complained. They said they would mail me a paper form and asked for my Singapore telephone number, after I told them very specifically that I did not live in Singapore. And they would ‘consider’ extending the deadline for me. Gee, thanks.
    (On an unrelated note, I make sure my sites work in Firefox before any other.)

  11. vantan

    I strongly suspect IRAS are overwhelmed with phone calls and email complaints (duh) and some officers responding to them may not be properly trained in how to deal with unhappy customers.
    Or they could be mentally exhausted and it just didn’t didn’t click in their heads that some people are overseas and they can’t recite their lines from memory in such cases.
    This is just my guess.
    I think any officer likely to be in contact with members of the public, ought to be trained in some PR.
    My team handles a lot of internal work, and we aren’t supposed to take phone calls from members of the public. But sometimes reception dials our numbers instead. Best is to be polite, listen to what they say, tell them you’re not the expert, take down their details and forward them to the right person.
    If they’re unhappy, don’t argue back. Apologise for the inconvenience caused, but also check with your relevant colleagues on the facts, in case the person’s being unreasonable. It helps to be cheerful, too.
    Anyhow, that’s worked for me so far. Fingers crossed…

  12. chnrxn

    The IRAS e-filing site is definitely written with WYSIWYGs like DW, FP, or *gasp* MS Word!
    How many people actually bother to hand code anymore?
    IRAS should really consider getting a team of senior developers, rather than just one or two running the show.

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