paying the tax

tax collectors get a bad press, but we have just got to the end of filling in our annual tax returns online and is an amazingly trouble free process … I can still remember when it was paper forms and 2 days before the final deadline we’d discover we needed extra green pages for this thing or other. Now-a-days you just fill in the boxes on the web form, if you haven’t got the figures it just remembers it all for later, then at the end you press the button and it works out everything. And even better, they said they owed me £80 🙂

If only every online service was as good. A short while ago we tried to open a savings account with the Northern Rock and gave up as the applet-based system they use is not compatable with Apple Macs … other banks seem to be able to use SSL for security and browser-independent HTML, so why not them! Suffice to say we went elsewhere.

Even worse was an experience early last year. I’d given a seminar at another university and submitted an expense claim. The university sent me payment advice as an email, but it displayed oddly when I viewed it and got a high spamassassin rating. A bit of digging and I found that the high spam rating was due to the fact that there was not a closing body tag in the HTML. I was going to mail the university IT support and then saw that the company who supplied the software, Albany Software, was named in the email and decided to mail them directly to avoid embarassing them to their client.

So I went to their web site … but it didn’t display properly in Firefox, I tried Safari … even worse! Eventually I got their ‘support’ contact email by using view source and mailed them, mentioning both the broken HTML in the email and the broken website.

The reply from their ‘support’ email:

“Try using Microsoft Internet Explorer. Though Firefox is vastely superior, most websites/applications are only compatible with Internet Explorer.”

Who said the days of the old sys admins had gone!

The happy end to the last story is that I just revisited their site, they have at last got it working cross browser … well I guess better late than never.

Anyway thumbs up for Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs, even if others need to catch up a little.