How to annoy people completing your online form

TaxIt’s February – and a few days since I submitted my VAT return online. It’s a tortuous process. Here’s what you have to do:

  1. Visit http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/vat/index.htm (not very catchy or memorable as a URL)
  2. Click Submit your VAT return (once you can find the link)
  3. Type your username (which is a 12-digit number)
  4. Type your password
  5. Login (fair enough so far)
  6. Click Next
  7. Click Services you can use (why?)
  8. Click Submit a VAT return (OK)
  9. Click Submit a return (yes, it repeats what you’ve already clicked to do)
  10. Click Next
  11. Click the Period for the return you want to submit e.g. 12/13
  12. Enter the Figures for your sales and purchases (that’s understandable, fine and dandy, but the auto-complete calculations are not as clear as they could be)
  13. Click Next
  14. Click Submit
  15. Enter your username again
  16. Enter your password again
  17. Wait
  18. Click Submit again (why?)
  19. Logout

And then you have to pay it – which is equally painful but for different reasons!

Why does it have to be a 19-step process to do one simple thing? And everyone is forced to do this. Every quarter. You don’t have the choice to submit VAT returns on paper anymore. I understand why, but paper returns were surprisingly simple by comparison.

Years ago, I worked on a project with Siegel and Gale – the team who simplified the paper tax return.

Dear Government. You need an information designer to simplify the online process. I know a couple who are excellent. Just ask me and I’ll give you their contact details and make millions of tax-payers happy. Thank you.

Why am I telling you this?

Because, if you ask customers to complete a form on your site, it needs to be simple. For example, when you want to capture contact details for your newsletter/tipsheet, ask only for first name and email address and you’ll get more signups. The more fields you make people fill in, the less likely they are to do it and the worse they are likely to feel about you.

And another thing…

This weekend, the newspaper featured a story about copycat websites. Through a legal loophole, anyone can set up a website that mimics the Government’s official site, and charges people a fee to do what they can do themselves for nothing.

Copycat websites mentioned in the article:

  • TaxReturnGateway.com
  • CaveatViator
  • PassportUK.com
  • V5c.uk.com
  • Nationalinsuranceuk.com
  • Who4.Ltd.uk

You might be wise to avoid these.

Then today I received three spam emails purporting to be from Gateway.Gov.uk with a dodgy looking zip file attached.

If you get the same, don’t open them.

The actual site is bad enough, but the fake sites and the spam make the whole taxation process even worse, don’t you agree?

photo credit: Images_of_Money via photopin cc

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