So much for the early bird catching the tax refund.
Some Ohioans who wanted to beat the rush were out of luck. If you were using the country’s best-selling tax software program, TurboTax, you couldn’t file all of your state forms until Wednesday because the company released its product before getting Ohio’s approval.
And if you live in Akron, you were doubly out of luck. Akron won’t be ready for electronic filers until the end of the month.
Stow residents Richard and Diane Walker found out the hard way that TurboTax for Ohio lagged behind most of the country in accommodating residents with moderately complex returns who wanted to file early.
The Walkers were sailing through the program, which they have used for 15 years, when suddenly they hit a brick wall. Imbedded in all of the Ohio forms were large, dark watermarks that read, “DO NOT FILE” and “FORM NOT FINAL.”
Believing they did something wrong, they double-checked their data, reran the error-check program and were preparing to uninstall the software and start over when they thought to check the “Frequently Asked Questions.”
After wading through a dozen pages, they discovered that, although most states were ready for action by Jan. 17, Ohio was lagging behind all but four others: Alabama, Iowa, Michigan and Missouri.
Akron is lagging even farther behind.
Taxpayer John White says he had some trepidation about filing electronically, given last year’s massive hacking scandal that compromised 30,000 names in the city’s income-tax database, but “I figured they had it straightened out after all of the [bad] publicity.”
He was encouraged by a letter from the city boasting that the process is “quick (5 minutes or less for most Akron e-filers) and available 24/7.”
Well, maybe. But not yet.
Arriving at the site, White read, “The E-File system is currently unavailable. The redesigned system will re-open by the end of February.”
White wonders why that information wasn’t contained in the letter.
His experience did nothing to allay his fear of filing online.
“I’m going to paper file,” he says. “Better to take a chance of it being stolen from the mail than broadcast worldwide like the Olympics.”
Hate to say it, but your name will wind up in the city’s database either way.
Raise the flag
For the first time in the two-year history of the electronic messaging system on the Akron Expressway, one of those signs actually helped someone I know.
That would be me.
On Friday morning, driving south on the west leg (before Interstate 77 merges with Interstate 76), a message board informed me that a crash had occurred at I-76 East and state Route 8.
So I got off early. As I sailed along on my alternate route, I saw a major backup radiating from the crash site.
For once, someone — or some piece of equipment — was awake at the switch. Let’s hope it continues.
Speaking of the freeway message boards ...
Bob: I have a gripe about these Amber Alerts, especially the ones for adults.
They never provide the sex of the person. They just read “ADULT MISSING” and the licence number and type of auto.
Don’t you think the sex would be important in identifying the person? How hard would it be to put a letter “F” or “M” before the word “adult”?
OK, thank you for allowing me to get this off my chest.
Heather: Glad I was able to help you unburden your chest.
My biggest problem with Amber Alerts is that the authorities apparently believe the average driver can remember a license plate for longer than 10 seconds.
Are we supposed to grab a piece of paper and write it down while driving? Leave ourselves a voicemail? Text it to ourselves?
On the other hand, I suppose a message that read “MISSING ADULT F IN GREEN FORD” would invite a flood of false alarms. So maybe we need the license number, even if we only remember the first few letters.
I do agree with you, though. Give us the gender, too. We’re only talking about one more letter — even if the missing person is transgender.
Which brings us to this ...
Bob: Knowing how much you like our electronic traffic signs that don’t seem to change no matter how much traffic there is, I couldn’t help but notice while in Nashville last week that they, too, have the signs.
The only difference is that for the entire week I was there, I did not see a single one turned on. So I am not sure which would be worse, having them and not updating them or having them and not using them at all.
Tom: I was prepared to say “not using them at all” is better, simply because we’d save electricity. But then I looked into this a little bit (wonders never cease) and received this explanation from the Tennessee Department of Transportation:
“The display of repetitive information could result in drivers failing to read the signs even when important information is given. For this reason, messages are not displayed ... [for] rush hours, bottleneck locations and durations of congestion [that] are predictable and thus expected by commuters.”
Not a bad way to run a railroad.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.