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AT LARGE: Paper chase

AT LARGE: Paper chase

A friend of mine runs a small business. Up until a year or so ago, she didn't run a small business, she did what she did for fun and made a spot of money. Then there was the GST. Don't get me started. If ever a bit of legislation seemed designed to take all the fun out of doing what you enjoy doing, the GST is it. I hope its designers are destined to spend the after-life eating fresh warm chocolate fudge and hating it.

This particular friend of mine has managed to keep doing her business and keep up to date with her GST obligations, despite not owning a computer. Seems hard to believe, doesn't it? But the fact is she's one of the few human beings who has managed to make both head and tail of the helpful GST documentation.

I stand in awe.

A few months ago, my friend went along with the rest of the crowd and bought a PC to do all this stuff on. She bought a simple bookkeeping package and learned how to use it.

Shortly afterward she told me she quite enjoyed doing her accounts on the computer. Sure, it took about half an hour longer than it used to on paper, but it's handy to have it all "in the computer".

"Don't use the computer," I said.

She looked at me with shock in her eyes. I, the computer guy, who finds an excuse to do just about everything with a computer, telling her not to? I don't imagine she would have looked any more dumbstruck had the Pope arrived on a bicycle and announced that the rhythm method is a crock.

Computers are supposed to do stuff better than people do. They're a tool, like a hammer. If there were a better way to get a nail into a piece of wood, you'd never bother owning a hammer, would you? If the computer makes the job take extra time out of your life, don't use it.

Pressed for what magical advantage there is in having her records "in the computer" instead of on paper, my friend came up blank. She could give them to an accountant, she said. And if this hypothetical accountant can't handle paper? "I can go back and modify the records," she said. I'm not entirely sure that's legal.

My friend is giving it the rest of this financial year. If, by next June, she's not working at least as efficiently on the computer as she used to on paper, the PC gets the boot.

I'll keep you posted.

Matthew JC. Powell is running a book on this. Place your bets on mjcp@optushome.com.au


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