Doing Taxes

Posted in personal at 12:35 am by danvk

File under “feeling old”… I got a copy of TurboTax today and started filling out form after form after form. Some thoughts:

  • The Instant Data Entry feature is cool. You fill out your employer and total wages, and TT downloads the rest of the information from its database. Google participated in this, but Rice did not.
  • TT asked me if I qualified for the “Ottoman Turkish Empire settlements” deduction. Ottoman empire? How many people could qualify for this? Some sleuthing turned up the story.

I kept thinking about what a nightmare this software must be to write. Nothing about taxes generalizes cleanly. It must be a tangled mess of “if A and B then go to C”. It’s the epitome of wizard-style programming.

It reminds me of a cool Atari ROM visualization I saw a few months back. It shows the control flow in the code of various Atari games. The line that stood out to me at the time was “Pac-Man, most complicated of the bunch, what with all the AI for the ghosts.” No doubt true, but what struck me was that AI is used as a synonym for “if statement”.

So not only does TT need to have an if statement for Armenian descendants of Ottoman citizens who were insured by New York Life, it needs to have equally complicated logic for all fifty states and probably even some cities.

In short, I’m glad I work for Google and not Intuit.

1 Comment

  1. Bob Meighan said,

    March 18, 2007 at 8:33 pm

    Danvk… I can assure you that writing code for TurboTax is an immense effort and does require a lot of exceptional programming (including If xxx, then yyy, except for zzz…). All you have to do is look at the IRS Code someday (what a joy!) to understand it’s spagetti code with exception after exception. Anyway, you must be doing a great job at Google because I use all their tools/services and think they are awesome. Also sounds like one of the best places to work.

    Bob Meighan
    VP, TurboTax