Tag Archives: search

7 things I learned about the ATO

I’m going to start this post by sending my heartfelt thanks to the wonderful woman from the Bendigo Bank who went above-and-beyond to help me find deposit information – from an account that was closed a year ago! At the end of this post you’ll find a quick how-to about finding specific names on the statements available via online banking with the Bendigo. But first, I need to explain why my deposit information is so important. It starts with Newstart.

I went on Newstart back in 2013 and found a couple of casual tutoring positions in 2014. Like a good girl, I reported every cent I earned to Centrelink and did all the right things, except for one – apparently I should have lodged a tax return.

I should have lodged a tax return in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 as well.

Why didn’t I lodge tax returns for any of those years?

Because no one told me I had to, and I assumed that my earnings were well below the tax free threshold. As it turned out, they were [and are], but apparently I should have lodged a return anyway…

I rang the ATO, and after a two hour conversation, I learned 7 things:

  1. People who are on some kind of pension and don’t earn an outside income must lodge a ‘non-lodgement’ form for the relevant years.
  2. People who are on some kind of pension and do earn an outside income must lodge an actual tax return, no matter how little they earn.
  3. Individuals and Sole Traders [such as Indie authors and tradies] can lodge a tax return through a tax agent [$$$] or online at the ATO. Those are the only two options. I’ve already complained to the ATO in writing. Nothing will change and pensioners like me will continue to struggle because of the following:
  4. To lodge a tax return online, you must have the ATO linked to your MyGov account.
  5. You can link the ATO to your MyGov account via a Bank Account or a Centrelink payment summary but…the Bank Account has to be the same bank account you used the last time you lodged a tax return. For some of us that could be decades ago. As for the Centrelink payment summary, it only seems to work if you haven’t received any outside income – e.g. from casual work.
  6. The only option that worked for me was to ring up and ask for a linking code. Frankly, that was the only easy part of the entire two hour conversation.
  7. If your tax return is at all out of the ordinary – e.g. if you’re on an age pension and run a small business as a Sole Trader – and you can’t afford a tax agent – you’ll be told to go to Tax Help. Tax Help is basically a group of volunteers who can help you fill out the online forms. Maybe. Given that a paid employee of the ATO couldn’t help me, I can’t help feeling just a tiny bit sceptical.

Before I do anything else, however, I need to go back and find out how much I earned above and beyond the Newstart allowance for the years 2014 – 2019. This year is fine, but the information from the previous years must have been thrown out when I did one of my rare ‘clean ups’. That left me with 3 casual employers to worry about.

This is where the Bendigo Bank rode into my life on a white charger. As I was pulling my hair and wondering what to do, I remembered that all of my casual pay would have been paid into a bank account. Eureka! All I needed to do was go back through all that old information and I’d find how much I’d earned.

I was right, except for one thing. I’d nominated an unused ‘cheque account’ for my pay. When I reached retirement age last year, I decided to get rid of the cheque account as I never used it. Another disastrous clean out.

This led to my final phone call of the day – to the Bendigo Bank. The lady I spoke to was so nice, so understanding, so bloody patient she deserves a medal. She found the cancelled account and went through it, transaction by transaction, looking for the three employers I’d named. And she found them.

There are literally no words to describe my relief. Now I can give the ATO the exact information they need so I can avoid any possibility of becoming a ‘Robodebt’ victim. Anyone living in Australia knows the horror stories circulating about Robodebt victims. I was honestly terrified that I’d end up as one of them. And I owe it all to one, nice lady at the Bendigo Bank. So here’s that quick how-to I mentioned:

How to search online statements via the Bendigo Bank.

For starters, login to your Bendigo Bank account and click on the account you want to check.

Next, at the top of the account transactions you’ll see four options. The one on the far right is ‘Statements’.

Click Statements and specify the year or time period you’re interested in [card accounts allow you to go back for many years, easy saver accounts only go back 2 years].

Open the statement of your choice. It’ll open as a PDF document. To save yourself a lot of time and eye-strain, hover the mouse over www.bendigobank.com.au as shown below:

Now, press Ctrl f on your keyboard.

This will cause a ‘Find on page’ box to display at the top of the screen. Start typing the name of the company or person you’re looking for.

If it’s found, the statement will automatically move to the appropriate page and the item will be shown with a small highlight. If it’s not found, you’ll see a message to that effect next to the search box.

I hope you never have to go back over years of transactions, but if you do, this neat trick will make it a lot less painful.

Okay, my brain hurts. I’m going to go do something mindless now.

cheers

Meeks

 

 


Natural language processing – or the future of chatbots

Natural language is what we humans use with each other, and it is not always logical and straightforward. That is why we have had to learn to rephrase our queries so Papa Google knows what we mean.

But most people don’t know how to search effectively because they are still stuck in natural language. Hence the rise of chatbots.

For now, chatbots are stupid, irritating pieces of code that work by leading us through a long, tedious process of questions and answers. If this article is right, however, chatbots of the future will use natural language processing [NLP] to work out what we want, and give it to us with the minimum of fuss and bother [on our part]. Machines getting smarter? Or humans dumbing down?

Meeks

 

Chatbots don’t quite understand us yet. We speak and they process our commands. In a chatbot like Yahoo Weather, you ask about the forecast in Seattle and the bot returns an answer. Natural Language Processing or NLP can read what you say and interpret some meaning. You don’t want to know the current temp in…

via Pat.ai chat technology is a step in the right direction — VentureBeat


#Chatbots – and we need them because…?

Okay, all I know about chatbots is what I’ve been reading on Medium lately, and the frustrating experience of ringing my utility company and being forced to answer the STUPID questions of its chatbot.

You know how it goes. You ring and either have to wait forever for the call to be picked up, or the chatbot answers and asks for your account number when all you want is some general information. Grrrr….

So you dig out a utility bill and spit out the account number, knowing full well that if you get through to a real person they will ask you for the number again anyway.

Then the utility company bot asks you to explain the reason for your call. You grit your teeth and try to think of a one or three word description and e.n.u.n.c.i.a.t.e it as clearly as possible while growling in the back of your throat.

What happens next? The chatbot either mishears you, or simply doesn’t have a response for your particular query and asks if you want to speak to a customer service representative…

-face palm-

Do I want to speak to a real, live person? Oh god…

Anyway, if you look at this infographic from Medium, you will see a comparison between a chatbot ‘conversation’ and the same query via a simple Google search:

chatbots vs google

To me, there is no point in carrying on a long, inane Q&A ‘conversation’ with a chatbot when a word or two is all I need to get all the information I need from Papa Google. But am I just being an elitist nerd?

I rather suspect I am. In fact, I rather suspect that most people who regularly use computers are elitist nerds. Why? Because using a computer is actually a lot harder than learning how to use apps on a smartphone. That is why smartphone use has skyrocketed world wide. It is also the reason some pundits believe the days of the desktop [computer] are over. Why pay so much and have to go through such a steep learning curve to do things a smartphone can do so much easier?

There is a part of me that wants to scream that what a smartphone can do is just a fraction of what a ‘proper’ computer can do, but the words barely form before I get a flash of the early 80’s and the emergence of the personal computer. Back then, PCs were much less powerful than mainframes, and I’m sure a lot of old school programmers could not see why everyone couldn’t just learn FORTRAN or something…

So…smartphones may be to the future what PCs were to the past because they are:

  • cheaper,
  • convenient,
  • portable in a real sense,
  • easy to use, and
  • a growth market

But I hope, truly ruly hope that chatbots are just the toddler stage of a technological progression that will end [?] with real voice recognition and real AI support.

Until then, I’ll stick with old school search engines and my antiquated desktop because…I’m an elitist dinosaur with poor eyesight and a pathological hatred of chatbots.

cheers

Meeks


#howto – search for an image on the internet

My thanks to Pinky for showing me how to do this! Now for the why. The answer is the big C. No, not cancer, copyright.

If you are just downloading pictures off the internet for your own enjoyment, and no, I’m not going to go there, then copyright is not an issue. The instant you use one of those images in anything vaguely commercial, even a simple blog post, you have to be sure you’re not infringing on someone’s copyright.

But how do you do that when you have no idea where the picture originally came from?

This is where Google Images comes in. Google has long been the king of word searches, but now it also lets you search by picture [and voice], and it all starts in the familiar Google search box…sort of.

How to find Google Images

If you are using Google Chrome then it’s easy. Simply click on the ‘Images’ option in the top, right hand corner of the screen:

googleimages 1

That will lead to this:

googleimages 2If you’re using some other browser [I use Firefox], type http://images.google.com into the address box of your browser and hit Enter :

googleimages 3[Note: as soon as the page is displayed, the URL changes to ‘https‘. As I’m a purist I always type the plain ‘http’.]

You should now be looking at this:

googleimages 4[Note: in Firefox, the Google search box does not include the ability to search by voice. This is only available in Chrome.]

How to actually do an image search

Whatever route you took to get here, you should now click on the small icon of a camera as shown above. That will lead to this:

googleimages 5

The ‘Search by image’ dialogue box contains two tabs – Paste image URL, and Upload an image.

Click the tab to Upload an image. This is what you will see:

googleimages 6

Click the ‘Browse’ button as shown. This will allow you to browse your own computer in order to find the image to be searched:

googleimages 7

The next bit assumes that you know how to find your way around the Windows files and folders. If you don’t, you can find a step-by-step how-to here.

Find the folder that contains the image you’re interested in. Click on that image and then click on ‘Open’ [as shown in the screenshot above].

And now the magic happens. Google search will think for a moment or two and then it will present you with the closest match it can find on the internet. This is the result for my image:

googleimages 8

As the image I chose is from a game, I did not expect to get a perfect match, and I didn’t. That’s because game avatars, even when customised, are based on a preset image. So they’re not unique. Photos of people and/or drawings etc., are unique, so they’re easier to find.This also means that if you use a copyrighted image in your blog, it can be found. So be careful!

cheers

Meeks

 


%d bloggers like this: