This is a quick update about one of the myTax questions that I mentioned in this post. It was one of the questions I ‘guessed’.
The question occurs in the section under PSI, or Personal Services Income, and asks for the:
‘Number of business activities’
Nowhere on the ATO website is there a definition of what ‘business activity’ actually means. Thanks to the very knowledgeable and patient lady I spoke to this morning, I can now tell you that for Sole Traders, the question refers to the number of people/companies you have worked for.
So, for example, if you work for ten different people/companies during the course of a financial year, the number of ‘business activities’ to report is…tah dah…10!
Is there such a thing as minus one? -grinds teeth-
In a nutshell, the ATO [Australian Taxation Office] website functioned quite well, and by that I mean the way the computer side of things worked. If you are familiar with the general workings of a complex website, you should be able to follow the logic fairly well. The problems arise from the content, in particular the terminology.
Any teacher will tell you that the single biggest hurdle to learning is new terminology. Not only does the student have to learn new terms specific to the subject matter, they often have to learn new meanings for familiar words and phrases used to describe very unfamiliar concepts.
The best software programs deal with the problem of terminology by having context sensitive lookups. For example, if a question is about ‘Sole Traders’, there will be a little [?] at the end that can be clicked. Clicking that lookup displays a short definition of the term.
Lookups are a great idea…if they’re executed properly, and that’s where assumptions come in. Experts have so much knowledge of their areas that they cannot put themselves in the shoes of someone who knows nothing. So many basic terms do not have lookups because… “It’s obvious, isn’t it?”
Duh no, it isn’t obvious. Not unless you’re a tax accountant.
I’m not a tax accountant. That’s why it took me well over two hours to lodge a couple of years’ worth of returns. The first was relatively easy because I was doing it as a normal person. The second was much harder because I was doing it as a ‘Sole Trader’. Basically, Sole Traders are people who work for themselves with a company name and an ABN [Australian Business Number]. Casual tutors like me often work as Sole Traders.
But all Sole Traders are not equal. Working out what variety of Sole Trader I was involved yet more terms I didn’t understand. I used every lookup, accessed Help, tried the so-called online chat help [basically just an algorithm] and even tried DuckduckGo. Despite all that, however, some of my answers were the better of two bad choices. In other words, pretty much guess work.
Surely there’s a better way?
Yes, there is. It’s called paying for a professional tax accountant.
Decades ago when I could afford the money, I actually had a tax accountant. These days I have to DIY and hope for the best.
I can’t be the only person having issues with the ATO’s myTax software because there is a real live group of volunteers who have been trained to ‘help’ with myTax! Whether they just help with the website side of things or the actual tax side I don’t know. What I do know is that myTax is a major disincentive to retirees thinking of working for themselves.
One exhausted retiree signing off.
p.s. While I’m in a venting mood, here’s one for the Guttenberg developers – it’s really annoying when you go back to edit a paragraph and the floating toolbar covers up part of what you’ve written. This seems to happen when the paragraph is at the top of the screen area: