Patrick McKenzie+ Your Authors @patio11 I work for the Internet, at @stripe, mostly on accelerating startups. Opinions here are my own. Sep. 02, 2020 1 min read + Your Authors

This is actually a very common pattern in government apps, which are often written to exactly comply to a RFP which explicitly or implicitly requires bug wise compatibility with an offline process.

Sometimes it is more rational than it looks.

One version: paper is extremely accepting of edge cases, and in cases where the agency in question either has unbounded edge cases or doesn’t want all of them specced out ($$$), the print-the-paper-then-annotate can do what app can’t.

For example, there are a variety of IRS forms which support E-Filing but which you may be asked by the accountant to print and hand write “Filed pursuant to Treasury Notice ...” on the top, which will cause the state machine to give it special handling.

“Like what?”

Informational return for a dormant foreign pass-through entity owned by a US person.

Yes, that is a real obligation, and you can understand why the IRS didn’t pay for that codepath right?

My favorite example of this was one form where in lieu of writing self-employment tax the literal right answer for how to do the filing was “Oh instead of that number write EXEMPT BY TREATY and then continue as normal. If they have questions they’ll ask.”

(The US-Japan Social Security Totalization agreement provides that US persons running a self-employed business in Japan are exempt from Social Security taxes if they pay into Japan’s analagous system at the self-employed rate and can substantiate on request.)

(I am unreasonably proud that I was the first person in Gifu to ever figure that out.)

(“How do you know?” The office in Gifu had to call one of the bigwigs who negotiated the treaty to ask what form covered that after I spend about an hour getting them over skepticism that I was right.)

You can follow @patio11.


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