Kafka lives in Washington

Time again to pay tribute to the Feds to fund illegal wars, insider fat-cats, and tax cuts for the coupon-cutting rich. See the postscript.

I need to send out a few 1099s. So I go to the IRS web site and request information on Form 1099. Hundreds of entries pop up. I choose 2003 Instruction Form 1099 ALL and wade through 92 pages. Nope, no blank forms there. I go to the Form Finder. Advanced Search. WTF? I can choose by the date material was posted to the site; I wonder if anyone has ever used that feature.

I choose to search for documents containing the word "1099-MISC." The result? "1444 results found, top 500 sorted by relevance." Oh joy. Then I notice that the first of the 1444 results is titled, "2003 Form 1099MISC." Cool. Then I read the description: "Attention: This form is provided for informational purposes and should not be reproduced on personal computer printers by individual taxpayers for filing."

Ah ha! I'm getting wise to their game. I return to the search page and enter "2003 Form 1099MISC." Damn. Again I get the form I'm not allowed to use. I open it anyway. Now I see the problem. "Caution: Because the IRS processes paper forms by machine (optical character recognition equipment), you cannot file with the IRS Forms 1096, 1098, 1099, or 5498 that you print from the IRS Web Site."

Oh. Now I see. I'm supposed to go down to the library to pick up a supply of Forms 1099. And then fill them our by hand so that a machine will be able to read them.

This whole procedure, only the first thirty minutes of what will end up being days of bureaucracy and blind alleys, is bizarre. My $99 scanner has no problems reading output from my printer. How is the IRS not able to do the same? For that matter, why doesn't the IRS simply use the same scanners they use to process 1040s and all the other forms you are allowed to print for yourself?

Beyond that, hasn't anyone at the IRS considered the 80/20 rule? Why do the instruction books have to cover every eventuallity? Shouldn't they have one path for the majority of users and another for people with arcane or oddball situations? Why are the instructions locked in Adobe Acrobat rather than in HTML, which would let you click through to what you want to look at?

In a couple of months, we'll be reading stories in the papers about how one in four answers the IRS gives to call-in questions are dead wrong. (But you'll be penalized if you follow their bad advice because they assume no responsibility for the accuracy of what they tell you.)

I bitch and moan about gaffes in eLearning. The IRS is in a different league. Super-SNAFU.

As a taxpayer, permit me to offer a one-word suggestion:


Well, that was a fun rant, but now I have to take it back. (And no, that's not a revenooer behind me holding a gun to my head.)

Having found no paper 1099 forms at the local library, I went back to irs.gov and took a different path. They have an 80/20 path just like I was asking for. I'll report back if it gets me to any forms.

Most post offices have tax forms. Not the main Berkeley Post Office, I found out. So I drove to Oakland, parked at City Center, and walked into the Ronald Dellums Federal Building. The IRS has a rack with tax forms just inside the door; it did not contain 1099s. Okay, I thought, I know their regional office is right inside. Oh silly me, I forgot that we're on alert. I was eighth in line to go through the metal detector. Five minutes later I showed my picture-ID and demonstrated that my cell phone could display 1-2-3. I walked through the metal detector without incident. My satchel passed through the xray machine.

The guard came to the other side of the conveyor belt and asked me if I were carrying knives or scissors. No, I said. I unzipped the bag. He said he was not allowed to reach inside. Could I dump everything out into a plastic box? Did I not have a knife in the side pocket of my bag?

Do you mean this? I asked.

Federal marshal: "We can't let you in here with that."
Me: "Can you hold it for me until I come back?"
Federal marshal: "No, you'll have to take it back to your car."
Me: "But my car is not close by."
Federal marshal: "You have no choice."

I turn to leave.
Federal marshal: "You can't go out that way. You have to use the exit."

In the lobby, I approach a couple of guys handing out literature for the University of Phoenix.
Me: "Would you guys mind holding my weapon while I pick up some tax forms?"
Phoenix: "No problem. A few minutes ago we helped a guy who tried to sneak in with a life-threatening nail-file. "

I re-entered through security and walked into the IRS office. Three large double-sided cases of forms. I find the slot marked 1099-MISC. It is empty. A note says to pick up Form 1099 at the front desk. I wait in line. I approach the desk. The clerk looks off in the direction of my left shoulder. She is blind. I telll her I need four 1099s. She knows right where they are. Whew!

I'm glad that escapade is behind me.

Posted by Jay Cross at January 11, 2004 12:05 PM | TrackBack

30 Poppy Lane
Berkeley, California 94708

1.510.528.3105 (office & cell)

Subscribe to this Blog

Enter your email address to subscribe. We vow never to share your information with anyone. No Spam.

Subscribe Unsubscribe

Reference Pages

Building Community
CSS, Semantic Mark-Up, and codes
First Principles
How People Learn
Knowledge Management
Learning Links
Learning Standards
Making It Work (Implementing)
Metrics & ROI
Social Software
String theory
The eLearning Museum
Visual Learning


Our Infrequent Newsletter
Sign up for our sporadic newsletter.

Entries by category...

Customer care
Emergent Learning
Just Jay
Recycled from Blogger
The Industry
Workflow-based eLearning


Internet Time Group

© 2004 Internet Time Group

Click for Berkeley, California Forecast
Berkeley, California

Recent entries

New Blog
Blogger Experience, Housekeeping, Something New
Loosely Coupled
Above all
Demographics is destiny
Are you setting the bar high enough?
Virtual Apps
Aerobic Learning
Work as Video Game
Oracle and Macromedia, Sitting in a Tree
The Blogosphere
ASTD Silicon Valley
Performance Support
Kingsbridge Conference Center
First Post by Email
Inactive Blog
RSS Feed for New Site
Comment Spam
Testing ... testing ... 1...2..3
IT Doesn't Matter - Learning Does.
All blogging is political
Mutlimedia Learning
Damn, damn, double damn
Nonverbal impact?
The New Religion
Wolf! Wolf! Wolf! Wolf! Wolf! Wolf!
Business Process Management (2)
Really Big
Business Process Management Conference
Don't Lose a Common Sense: LISTEN
It's only natural
Go with the flow
Time Out for the Fair
Informal get-together in SF this Wednesday
Repetition, reverb, and echoes
Who Knows?
Cognitive Mapping
Push vs pull
The Big Picture on ROI
Art Break
TDF Finale
New Community of Practice Forming
More TDF04
Training Directors Forum 2004
A Rare One-Liner
PlaNetwork LIVE 2
PlaNetwork LIVE
ASTD 2004 Leftovers
Worker Effectiveness Improvement, not KM
Upcoming Events
eLearning Effectiveness?
Jay's Talk at ASTD
Mintzberg & Cooperider
Lest ye forget
ASTD International Conference & Exposition 2004
Knowledge Tips
What is Workflow Learning?
ASTD msg 1 of n
Look out, it's Outlook
Collaboration at ASTD Next Week
Tell me a story
User indifference
The shortest presentation on metrics you will ever hear
Back to Blogger
Windows fixes
The Alchemy of Growth
Grab bag
Very loosely coupled
E-Learning from Practice to Profit
Robin Good kicks off Competitive Edge
China Bloggers
Sonoma Dreaming
Upcoming Events
Emergent Learning Forum: Simulations
The Best Things in Life Are Free
Metrics and Web Services
OpEd: ROI vs. Metrics
e-Merging e-Learning
Loosely Coupled
Search me